ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 9-10, 2004
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 9-10, 2004
[Science and Religion] Plan to teach evolution approved by Ohio board
Hours of criticism from mainstream scientists and several legal threats didn't discourage the state Board of Education on Tuesday from approving new lesson plans to teach evolution in Ohio schools. The science model curriculum, an optional set of classroom lectures and activities for science teachers, includes a chapter titled "Critical analysis of evolution" that recommends 10th graders debate several common critiques of the theory.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Banned skinhead group in Australia
A Melbourne recording studio is producing hate songs for a skinhead band that preaches white supremacist messages via heavy metal music. The modest St Andrews Studio in Cheltenham is used by the banned German band Exxtrem. The studio boss who recorded the band said: "Their main idol is Hitler." German authorities banned Exxtrem and its music as racist and they insist on legal clearance for locally produced skinhead or satanic bands. Officials closely monitor the band and liaise with Australian security agencies to counter the spread of racist hate music.
[Seventh-day Adventism] No charges filed over sexual abuse suspicions at Adventist boarding school
Suspicions of sexual abuse of children within the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which were raised last autumn, are not leading to the filing of criminal charges. State Prosecutor Päivi Hirvelä decided not to file charges after reviewing the evidence gathered during the police investigation into the matter. The statute of limitations had run out for some of the incidents described by the pupils of the Adventist-run boarding school Toivonlinna in Piikkiö in the southwest of Finland. Hirvelä says that most of the rumours were not confirmed in the investigation, and many of the suspicions proved to be unfounded.
[Mungiki] 'Leader' of Banned Sect Denied Bail
The man widely believed to be the Mungiki national leader, Mr John Maina Njenga, and 32 others yesterday denied a charge of belonging to an illegal society. The Nairobi chief magistrate's court remanded them in custody until March 19 when the case will be mentioned.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Man faces theme park child rape charges
A devout Jehovah's Witness and family man raped two children and assaulted five others in a lagoon at a Gold Coast theme park, a court was told yesterday.
[Lee Boyd Malvo] Sniper Malvo sentenced to life without parole
Virginia judge Wednesday formally sentenced Lee Boyd Malvo to life in prison without parole for his role in the October 2002 Washington-area sniper killings.
[St. Death] 'St. Death' calls to the living in Mexico City
Swathed in a cloak and equipped with a long scythe, Mexico's Santa Muerte, or St. Death, is a dead ringer for the Grim Reaper. But devotees like those in Mexico City's notorious El Tepito slum insist she is a motherly angel of mercy, and they make sure to attend to her like a queen. [...] Stories like Alvarado's, of prayers answered and miracles performed, are fueling the spread of a Mexican phenomenon: the cult of St. Death, whose worship is said to date back only a generation to rural villages in the mid-1960s. Prisoners, petty thieves, corrupt cops and powerful drug traffickers are said to be devotees of the so-called saint, who is not recognized by the Catholic Church. But the cult is benefiting, too, from the faith of simple working-class Mexicans who try to abide by the law but daily face the hunger, injustice, corruption and crime of Mexico's toughest neighborhoods.
[Homosexuality] Gay bishop takes reins of Episcopal diocese
With three mighty thumps on the church door Sunday, V. Gene Robinson knocked and was welcomed into St. Paul's sanctuary, where he officially became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop. Sunday's investiture ceremony does not carry the same weight as Robinson's consecration, which rocked the Episcopal Church in November. But it gave a capacity crowd of more than 700 the chance to welcome the new leader of the Diocese of New Hampshire with whoops, cheers and a standing ovation. Bells rang out from the church tower.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Annandale church isn't liable in abuse suit
A Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Annandale, Minn., isn't liable if one of its members sexually abused two child congregants more than a decade ago, a Minnesota Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday. [...] The women say the organization's rules prevented them from protecting themselves and gave the organization a legal duty to protect them. But in an opinion written by Judge Robert Schumacher and decided with judges Bruce Willis and Wilhelmina Wright, the court ruled that the organization didn't have control or custody of the girls when the alleged abuse happened. Incidents were alleged to have taken place on a snowmobile, in an automobile and at the alleged perpetrator's house, not at a Jehovah's Witnesses function or on the organization's property, the panel reasoned.
[Religious Merchandising] What a trend we have in Jesus
Jesus Christ Superstar, indeed. Pop cultures reigning "It" guy is not some prefab pop star or some scruffy-haired actor with a million-dollar smile. Rather, its none other than Jesus Christ. Christ has always been a presence in pop culture, and is frequently the first figure thanked in awards show acceptance speeches and in album liner notes. But Jesus popularity has surged in recent weeks, with a Christ-themed work setting the box office ablaze and spinning off successes on television, on the music charts and in trendy fashion circles. Whether caused by a search for comfort in a society of elevated terror alerts or an embracing of old-fashioned religious beliefs, Jesus is seen as a pretty hip dude right now. "As a matter of fact, thinking about Jesus as being hip is not so bad," says Elayne Rapping, professor of media studies at the University of Buffalo.
[Islam] Muslims see new opposition to building mosques since 9/11
Some Muslim groups seeking to build mosques to accommodate their growing numbers of followers are encountering vehement opposition in communities across the nation. In some cases, the conflicts are similar to those that for decades have pitted residents against expansion plans by large churches. Neighbors in communities from New Jersey to Arizona have protested Muslim groups' proposals for mosques by raising classic "not-in-my-backyard" arguments that have focused on the sizes of planned buildings, parking, lighting and other factors that can affect property values. But the debates over mosques in several U.S. cities during the past two years occasionally have led to name-calling and allegations of bigotry a reflection of some residents' mistrust of Muslims since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by radical Muslims.
[Faith Healing] Charismatic chiropractor gets 1-1/2 years
To chiropractor Joanne Gallagher and her patients, her practice is almost like a religion. One patient described her laying on of hands as "a gift. In my church it's called grace." Outside a federal courtroom yesterday in Harrisburg, some of her 200 followers and supporters recited the rosary. Inside, others talked about their absolute faith in her. And Gallagher, awaiting sentencing on a fraud charge, led the packed courtroom in prayer while asking the judge for leniency. That faith, prosecutors say, cost a woman her life when Gallagher insisted she could cure her epilepsy without medicine by waving her hands around the woman's head -- what she called "balancing the meninges."
[Islam] Islam 'will be dominant UK religion'
Islam will be the most widely practised religion in the UK by 2020, according to British and Muslim magazine editor Sarah Joseph. She says mosque attendance is expected to outstrip church attendance over the next 16 years. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people a year convert to Islam in the UK, which is currently home to approximately 1.8 million Muslims. "We are the second largest faith in Britain and will be the largest practising faith in Britain by 2020 if you use church and mosque attendance as a measure," she told the GDN.
[Yoga] It's no stretch to say Americans embrace yoga
Yoga is now practiced by 7 percent of U.S. adults, or 15 million people, according to a market study conducted by Harris International this summer for Yoga Journal. That's up 28.5 percent in the last two years alone. The same study found that more than half of the general population has at least a casual interest in yoga, and one in six respondents planned to try yoga in the next year. Three-quarters of fitness clubs now offer some form of yoga class, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association
[Witchcraft] Mexican town's 'witches' mine ritual for money
On the first Friday of every March, the town's "witches" -- 126 of whom are registered with the local chamber of commerce -- perform an elaborate purification ceremony to rid themselves of a year's worth of negative energy. But what began as an obscure ritual in an isolated corner of Mexico has become big business in a country where everyone from peasant farmers to presidents turns to witches for help -- or to cause harm. The onset of television marketing and the Internet has fueled the boom in recent years, feeding what some fear has become a criminal network trading in witchcraft.
[Witchcraft] Witchcraft, capitalism thrive in Mexican town
Witchcraft has inhabited Catemaco for centuries, according to Baez. The tradition is rooted in medieval practices brought by the Spanish that were mixed with indigenous customs and influenced by black slaves who worked in the area's sugar cane plantations. Media interest since the 1980s has fed the town's fame, turning it into a veritable capital of spellcasting. In less than a generation, the number of witches in Catemaco has risen from a handful to well over 100, and townspeople say it is still rising.
[Islam] France Struggles to Accept Muslims into Mainstream
As one way to protect itself against religious extremism, the French government is clamping down on religious symbolism. This month the French Parliament approved a ban on headscarves in public schools; its passage into law is expected this spring. The logic of the legislation works like this: For a Muslim to become a religious extremist is to first embrace Muslim symbols -- headscarves for women, beards for men. By eliminating as many of those symbols as possible, the logic continues, this step to extremism is removed. "France cannot be a playground for fundamentalism and that's the direction it's heading," says Herve Mariton, a member of Parliament who served on a committee that created the headscarf ban. "We are drawing a line to protect French society, to prevent this move toward extremism." So far, though, the legislation has backfired.
[Antisemitism] Rising Anti Semitism in Europe Blamed on Muslim Youths Alienation
During the last three years, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues across Europe have been defaced and Jewish students have been physically attacked. The violence has been blamed on young Muslim males whose anger is fueled by what they see as Israeli oppression of Palestinians. But some observers say religion is just a surface issue beneath which lies a history of old-style European anti-Semitism and new-style disenchantment by second-generation Muslim immigrants who are largely impoverished and alienated in Europe. VOAs Jela De Franceschi examines this spate of anti-Semitism.
[Hate Groups] Ernst Zundel, civil-rights champion?
After more than a year in solitary confinement, Canada's most famous Holocaust denier is still fighting deportation, KIRK MAKIN reports, and he may rewrite the law in the process. All because he wants to know what the secret case is against him.
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[Hate Groups : Scientology] Actress takes her 'peeps' on wild ride
Under the title "Kirstie Alley's Wild Ride," Alley and crew gave an illustrated lesson in the Emotional Tone Scale devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Alley said the scale, which ranges from highs such as exhilaration and enthusiasm to lows such as grief and hopelessness, helped save her life -- literally -- on several occasions. "We're going to start at the bottom of the scale -- death -- and take you to the top of the world," Alley promised. With the help of the 120-voice Voices of the Dream gospel choir of Wichita and gospel artist Michael Speaks from Los Angeles for the finale, she kept her promise, according to audience members who stood and clapped along with the music.
[Freemasonry] Bomb blast at Istanbul Masonic lodge kills at least 2
A bomb blast at a building housing a Masonic lodge killed at least two people and wounded five others Tuesday, police said. News reports blamed at least one suicide bomber, just months after four deadly terror strikes in this city.
[Freemasonry] Man Killed During Initiation at Masonic Lodge
A man was killed during a Masonic initiation ceremony when another member fired a gun loaded with real bullets instead of the expected blanks and shot him in the face, police said Tuesday. [...] Carl Fitje, grand master of the New York State Freemasons, issued a statement Tuesday denying that guns play a role in any officially sanctioned lodge ceremonies. "We don't use pistols," Steve Mayo, who described himself as a senior deacon of the lodge, told reporters Tuesday. "This is not a Masonic ceremony where we bring pistols." However, Fitzpatrick said members told police the rite involving a gun goes back at least 70 years. Mayo said the Monday night ceremony was an initiation into the Fellow Craft, which is the second degree within the multilevel Masonic system.
[John Allen Muhammad] Virginia Judge Formally Sentences Sniper John Muhammad to Death
John Allen Muhammad, one of two men accused in the sniper-shooting deaths of 10 people in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, was sentenced to death by a Virginia judge today for murdering a man at a gas station.
[Goddess Worship] Oh, Godess: Exploring the concept of the divine feminine
The concept of goddess reverence - or the divine feminine - was introduced to pop culture last year with Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (Doubleday, $24.95), which raised the possibility that Mary Magdalene was a spiritual heroine and that pagan traditions - which honored feminine as well as masculine divinity - were inextricably linked with Catholic traditions. But for those, such as Birely, whose spirituality encompasses the assemblage of feminine deities from cultures around the world, the practice of her faith is no fiction.
[Lord's Resistance Army] 'Kony now a Muslim'
Rebel leader Joseph Kony who started out as a Christian fundamentalist has since become a Muslim, former abductees have said.
[USA] Q&A: Guantanamo Bay - British cases
Five British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay are being sent back to the UK. Four others remain and face possible trials by a military tribunal. BBC News Online looks at the issues involved.
[USA] Human rights group accuses U.S. forces of abusing Afghans
U.S. forces in Afghanistan use excessive force during arrests, mistreat prisoners in detention and commit other human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch charged in a report to be released today.
[Mungiki] Hunt for Mungiki followers
Police yesterday declared war on the outlawed Mungiki sect, as reports emerged that its members were involved in cases of carjacking. The Nairobi police boss, Mr Jonathan Koskei, said his men arrested eight Mungiki adherents last Sunday and confiscated certain paraphernalia from the suspects, which was being analysed. This follows an exclusive story carried by the East African Standard on the emergence of a squad within the outlawed sect trained to kill people.
[Islam] Women march in Paris against Islamic veil
Thousands of women demonstrated in Paris Saturday amid deep division over the controversial wearing of the Islamic veil in a country where Islam - with some five million adherents - has become the second religion. The procession included a small group of women wearing headscarves under heavy escort, much to the disgust of many demonstrators who said they were marching to protest the oppression of women in the tough housing projects around French cities.
[Fraud] Second man sentenced in phony church scam
A second man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on Monday for his role in a scheme to create phony churches and bilk charity donors out of millions of dollars. Gabriel Bernardo Sanchez, 37, was convicted in November - along with childhood friend Timothy James Lyon - on 33 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of money laundering.
[Caritas of Birmingham] Religious war in county courthouse
A bizarre religious battle between an alleged Alabama cult and a man hell-bent on its destruction is burning its way through the San Mateo County Courthouse, with both sides suing each other for wild slander, printed allegations of attempted murder, mafia involvement, money laundering, weapons dealing and spiritual chicanery. The unusual case involves a suit filed in Redwood City by Phillip Kronzer, a resident of Los Gatos and Reno, Nev., against Caritas of Birmingham, a spiritual community in Alabama dedicated to promoting the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzegovina, which six youths claimed to have witnessed in 1981.
[Underground Church] Report: China Arrests Roman Catholic Bishop
Authorities have detained a Roman Catholic bishop from the northeastern Chinese city of Qiqihar, a U.S.-based monitoring group reported Tuesday.
[Botanicas] Botanicas -- supply stores for the gods
Botanicas used to be found almost exclusively in Latino neighborhoods such as San Francisco's Mission District or Fruitvale in Oakland. More and more, however, spiritualist shoppers need not go far to find a clean, well- lighted place for voodoo. Many of the gods and goddesses of the botanicas are African deities that first came to the New World via the Caribbean and the slave trade. Over the centuries, some blended with Catholic saints or the indigenous spirits of American Indian spirituality. But in today's marketplace of mix-and-match religion, people of all makes and models seem to follow the orishas, the relocated deities of the African pantheon.
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