Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Religion News Report - January 27, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 316)

Expand Messages
  • Anton Hein
    ================================================================ Religion News Report - January 27, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 316)
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      ================================================================
      Religion News Report - January 27, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 316)
      ================================================================

      === Falun Gong
      1. Falungong meeting to go ahead as planned
      2. Square security kept at a premium

      === Buddhism
      3. Missionaries' methods for conversion wrong: Lama
      4. Karmapa not a Chinese spy: Dalai

      === Islam
      5. Conversion crusade rends Spice Islands
      6. Suffering of war: a woman's story
      7. Revenge fuels cycle of religious violence
      8. Paramount Film's Super Bowl Villains Changed to Neo-Nazis

      === Mormonism
      9. Anti-U. case goes to Capitol

      === Paganism / Witchcraft
      10. Moraine's seer ban panned
      11. U. Utah speakers seek to make goddesses holy images once again

      === Hate Groups
      12. Germany's Neo-Nazi Violence Surging

      === Other News
      13. Rights groups protest French anti-cult bill
      14. Va. Senate Panel Passes Pledge Bill
      15. Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Selective Enforcement

      === Death Penalty and other Human Rights Violations
      16. Prosecutor is moved by new data in capital case



      === Falun Gong

      1. Falungong meeting to go ahead as planned
      The Nation (Thailand), Jan. 26, 2001
      http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/tnation/article.html?s=asia/headlines/010126/newspapers/tnation/Falungong_meeting_to_go_ahead_as_planned.html
      Thailand will not object to an upcoming international congregation of the
      Falungong movement in Bangkok, as long as it is conducted without an ulterior
      motive to attack China and if it poses no security threat to the kingdom, Deputy
      Foreign Ministry spokesman Rathakit Manathat said.

      Nevertheless, the security agency responsible would need to conduct a check on
      the background of the planned gathering due here in April, he said.
      (...)

      There are currently around 1,000 followers in Thailand. "As far as [Falungong]
      is concerned, their religious expression in Thailand is not against our law and
      constitution," he said.
      (...)

      Meanwhile, a group of foreign Falungong practitioners have recently been
      distributing leaflets condemning the Chinese government in Chinatown, in the
      Yaowarat district. The leaflets invited interested people to attend Falungong
      gatherings, which are held in many of Bangkok's public parks.
      [...more...]


      2. Square security kept at a premium
      South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Jan. 27, 2001
      http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/scmp/article.html?s=asia/headlines/010127/newspapers/scmp/CHINA__Square_security_kept_at_a_premium.html
      Police yesterday continued their close watch on Tiananmen Square to stop any
      protests from Falun Gong followers in the wake of a suicide attempt by five
      protesters earlier this week.

      Thousands of plainclothes and uniform police demanded identification from
      visitors, checking bags and clothing.

      Underground tunnels leading up to the square in central Beijing were also
      guarded by a line of police officers who questioned anyone they suspected of
      being a member of the outlawed sect.
      (...)

      The situation appeared calmer yesterday, the fourth day of heightened security.
      Falun Gong's main Web site, minghui.com, contained no information on the group
      suicide attempt.

      The Government has called on all citizens and work units to weed out Falun Gong
      members. However, the call has been answered with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

      The leaders of Qinghua University have been zealous in ferreting out on-campus
      followers, but at Beijing University, the country's No 1 university, officials
      have adopted more of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, one student said.
      (...)

      The majority in Falun Gong do not demonstrate. However, commentators believe
      they form an enormous reservoir of believers who may someday be driven to act.
      They provide emotional and, sometimes, financial support to each other and to
      those members who have been imprisoned or lost jobs.

      The China Anti-Cult Association estimates that after the 18-month crackdown
      50,000 to 80,000 Falun Gong members are still practising in China. Adherents put
      the number in the tens of millions.
      [...more...]


      === Buddhism

      3. Missionaries' methods for conversion wrong: Lama
      South Nexus (India), Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.southnexus.com/newspopup_news.php?date1=27/01/2001&sequence=34&cnews=
      KUMBH NAGAR, Jan 27: Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has termed the methods
      adopted by Christian missionaries for conversions as "wrong", but cautioned
      against "countering conversions through use of force."

      "The methods adopted by Christian missionaries for religious conversions are
      wrong and they (the Christian Missionaries), instead of indulging in
      conversions, should make efforts to preserve their own traditions," he told
      reporters here in reply to a query.

      "Conversion is an outdated concept and it is harmful as it results in clashes
      between different religions," he said. During the rule of 'Ashoka the Great'
      missionaries were sent abroad to spread Budhism but the practice was stopped
      later.

      However, the Lama cautioned against countering conversion through use of force
      saying it could be tackled in a positive manner--by educating people about their
      own traditions and values. "The conflict occurs mostly because of lack of
      knowledge about each other's traditions. Everyone should be allowed to follow
      his or her own traditions."
      [...more...]


      4. Karmapa not a Chinese spy: Dalai
      The Times of India, Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.timesofindia.com/270101/27indi12.htm
      Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Friday rejected as "baseless" the rumours
      that the 17th Karmapa, who fled China, was a "Chinese spy."
      (...)

      To a question on the Indian government's stand on granding asylum to the
      Karmapa, he said "so far no clear picture has emerged from New Delhi on this
      issue."
      [...more...]


      === Islam

      5. Conversion crusade rends Spice Islands
      The Age (Australia), Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.theage.com.au/news/2001/01/27/FFXJ7BLQEIC.html
      Hundreds of Christians, including children and pregnant women, have been
      forcibly circumcised as part of a campaign by extremists to spread Islam through
      Indonesia's war-ravaged Maluku Islands.

      Victims have told The Age of multiple cuttings with the same knives and razors
      that left many with infections.

      Church and other groups in Ambon, the biggest city in the islands, have gathered
      evidence that 3928 villagers on at least six islands were forced to convert to
      Islam under threat of death, torture or destruction of their homes. They believe
      that local Muslim clerics, possibly under duress from extremists, circumcised
      almost all the converts.

      Moderate Muslim leaders have condemned the forced conversions and circumcisions,
      saying they are contrary to Islamic teachings.

      The Muslim Governor of Maluku, Saleh Latuconsina, last week led an investigation
      team to the island of Kesui, 420 kilometres south-east of Ambon, after receiving
      an official report in late December confirming that villagers there were
      converted to Islam against their will and circumcised.
      (...)

      Moderate Muslim leaders in Ambon have distanced themselves from the conversions
      and circumcisions. They deny any campaign to force Islam on Christians in the
      islands, where a two-year religious war has left up to 8000 people dead and
      500,000 homeless.

      Malik Selang, executive secretary of the Maluku chapter of the Indonesian Muslim
      Board, denied Muslims were responsible for forced conversions or circumcisions.
      (...)

      Governor Latuconsina, who refused to be interviewed by The Age, is believed to
      have been shocked when he read a report on Kesui dated December 19. The report,
      marked confidential, detailed how Christians on the island have been forced to
      change their religion after threats of murder, house burnings and intimidation.
      The report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Age, confirmed that
      Christians who had "surrendered because they could not stand it any more" had
      been circumcised after being taken to a mosque.
      [...more...]


      6. Suffering of war: a woman's story
      The Age (Australia), Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.theage.com.au/news/2001/01/27/FFXG6DLQEIC.html
      Christina Sagat's physical wounds have healed but this 32-year-old woman is left
      with the deep pain of unresolved sorrow and humiliation. There is also the pain
      of betrayal - how could her neighbors, with whom she had lived in harmony, turn
      on her, and lead her to a cruel ordeal?

      In December she and other Christians from her village on the island of Kesui,
      part of the Indonesian Maluku group, were forced to convert to Islam.

      The conversion included forced circumcision, a mutilation condemned by respected
      Muslim leaders but inflicted on hundreds in the isolated island group by
      extremists of the Jihad (holy war) movement in a vicious and largely unreported
      sectarian war.

      She takes some comfort from the dying words of her uncle, murdered by an
      extremist mob, who despite his wounds urged his family not to take revenge. "But
      somehow I feel sad. I feel like I'm no longer `complete', both as a person and a
      woman," she said, speaking amid the ruins of Ambon City, the epicentre of the
      Maluku tragedy.
      [...more...]


      7. Revenge fuels cycle of religious violence
      The Age (Australia), Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.theage.com.au/news/2001/01/27/FFX18BLQEIC.html
      Snipers take positions atop charred and bullet-pocked buildings as darkness
      falls.

      Fighters in every neighborhood prepare for another night of bombings and
      possible attack. As a 10pm curfew begins, gunfire erupts in this city of 270,000
      people, where Muslims and Christians once lived largely in peace.

      Almost every day for two years shocking things have happened in Ambon, capital
      of Indonesia's Maluku province, the legendary Spice Islands.

      Up to 8000 people are dead and 500,000 homeless.
      (...)

      Thamrin Tomagola, a sociologist at the University of Indonesia, describes the
      conflict as "the most terrible civil war in the world". More people have been
      killed per head of population than in Bosnia, he says.
      (...)

      Once called the Queen of the East, Ambon City was a bustling, prosperous
      regional hub serving countless picturesque islands.

      Now heavily armed combat troops and police separate the two communities. They
      have often taken sides, greatly escalating what has become known as a religious
      war but which has gone beyond that.

      Now each side has a fanatic desire to avenge the other's latest attack, creating
      a cycle of violence that appears impossible to end.
      (...)

      The war is said to have started with a fight between a Muslim bus driver and a
      Christian passenger in January 1999. Within hours, Christians and Muslims were
      attacking neighborhoods all over the city.

      The fighting quickly spread through the islands.

      Even though the violence evolved along religious lines, it is rooted in ethnic,
      economic and political rivalries.
      (...)

      Throughout much of last year the violence was fuelled largely by the arrival of
      several thousand Muslim fighters from Java, who call themselves Laksar Jihad.
      The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a recent report: "Lacking
      an effective security force, the Abdurrahman Wahid Government has allowed the
      killing in the Maluku region to simmer for almost two years without formulating
      a clear strategy to overcome the violence."

      Many of Jakarta's political elite believe that powerful politicians and military
      officers who have been displaced by the Wahid Government are encouraging
      violence in Maluku to discredit and destabilise the current administration.

      The ICG, headed by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, warns in its
      report that unless the pattern changes, bloodshed will continue and the
      Christian-Muslim divide will widen.

      The consequences will extend beyond Maluku, the group says.
      Minority Christians in other parts of Indonesia, which has the world's largest
      Muslim population, are deeply worried that Maluku could be the trigger for
      widespread rioting and score-settling throughout the country.
      [...more...]


      8. Paramount Film's Super Bowl Villains Changed to Neo-Nazis
      PRNewswire, Jan. 26, 2001 (Press Release)
      http://www.newsalert.com/bin/story?StoryId=CoNeeubWbrengmdiX&FQ=religious&Nav=na-search-&StoryTitle=religious
      WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The villains in "The Sum of All Fears," a
      new film by Paramount Pictures, have been changed to Neo-Nazis following
      objections from a national Islamic advocacy group that had concerns about
      possible stereotyping of Muslim characters. ("The Sum of All Fears" is currently
      beginning production in Montreal, Canada. It stars actor Ben Affleck.)

      Director Phil Alden Robinson ("Sneakers," "Field of Dreams") has told the
      Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that unlike the Tom Clancy novel on
      which the movie is based, "The Sum of All Fears" will have "European Neo- Nazis"
      as the villains who detonate a nuclear device at the Super Bowl in Denver. (In
      the book, an unexploded Israeli nuclear device is found on the Golan Heights and
      obtained by terrorists.)
      (...)

      For the past two years, CAIR has been in contact with Paramount Pictures and
      Mace Neufeld, the film's original director, to discuss Muslim characters in the
      book and their possible use in the screenplay.

      "Given the existing prejudice against and stereotyping of Islam and Muslims, we
      believe this film could have had a negative impact on the lives of ordinary
      American Muslims, particularly children. We are pleased that Mr. Robinson took
      the initiative to help eliminate religious and ethnic bias from his film. This
      move should set a precedent for other movie producers," said CAIR Board Chairman
      Omar Ahmad.

      Ahmad added that each year, CAIR issues an annual report on the status of
      American Muslim civil rights outlining hundreds of incidents involving anti-
      Muslim discrimination, harassment and even physical violence. He said that many
      of these incidents result from the negative images of Islam and Muslims put
      forward in the entertainment industry.
      [...more...]

      * The negative image of Muslims is due primarily to Islam's history as "The
      Religion of the Sword," and continues today because of widespread Islamic
      extremism.

      More about Islam
      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/i07.html


      === Mormonism

      9. Anti-U. case goes to Capitol
      Deseret News, Jan. 26, 2001
      http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,250006905,00.html?
      A Salt Lake attorney has sent a letter to 42 members of the Legislature, urging
      them to consider allegations of bias against LDS Church members before funding
      the University of Utah this session.

      "It goes without saying that the University of Utah is supported out of the tax
      coffers of this state," James W. McConkie wrote in a Jan. 24 letter obtained by
      the Deseret News. "It also goes without saying that approximately 74 percent of
      the people in Utah who pay taxes are Mormons. On this basis alone, it is fair to
      query why Mormon parents should be asked to financially support and send their
      children to a school where their children may encounter religious
      discrimination."

      McConkie represents former U. theater student Christina Axon-Flynn, a member of
      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who filed suit in federal court
      last year against five U. faculty members alleging her constitutional rights
      were violated.

      The professors refused to allow Axson-Flynn to omit two vulgar words from an
      in-class performance, even though she had told department officials before being
      accepted into the program that she would not "use the Lord's name in vain" or
      other vulgar words in parts she played because to do so was against her
      religious beliefs.

      McConkie, in a letter addressed to members of the House and Senate
      appropriations and education committees, told lawmakers that after filing the
      lawsuit, there was a storm of publicity.

      "Our office received close to 100 calls, many from professors and students at
      the University of Utah telling us of instances of anti-Mormon discrimination or
      derogatory comments made about the Mormon Church," he wrote.
      (...)

      University spokesman Fred Esplin called the letter "outrageous."

      "This is two paid attorneys stirring up trouble for the University of Utah in an
      attempt to settle out of court on a case that is weak," he said. "They have
      attempted to use the media and the legislative process to achieve what they fear
      they cannot achieve in court."

      University officials said that as a matter of policy and practice, they enforce
      all federal and local standards for nondiscrimination and that they create
      programs that promote understanding among various religious and ethnic groups on
      campus.
      (...)

      Rep. Afton Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake, co-chairwoman of the Higher Education
      Appropriations Committee, said there are always "people who practice
      discrimination — against Mormons and the other way around" but says she does not
      see anti-LDS bias as a widespread problem on campus.

      "The University of Utah is an open place which welcomes and nurtures people of
      all beliefs," Esplin said.
      [...more...]


      === Paganism / Witchcraft

      10. Moraine's seer ban panned
      Dayton Daily News, Jan. 26, 2001
      http://www.activedayton.com/partners/ddn/local/0126moraine.html
      “It was absolutely no good. It was a terrible ordinance,” city Councilman Ronald
      Payne said Thursday night as he moved to set aside a city ordinance banning
      fortunetelling or “predicting for a fee.”

      Payne’s assessment came during a council meeting that featured the Moraine City
      Council listening to witches and priests tell them why their proposed ordinance
      was a bad idea.

      “Thank you for tabling this ordinance,” said Crystal Mize, Montgomery County
      director of Witches Against Religious Discrimination.

      She warned the council that the proposed law was reaching witches and other
      pagan groups throughout the country, and that the Internet opened a strong
      network of interest.
      (...)

      The ordinance bans "predicting" and "predicting for a fee" and includes “palm
      reading, card reading, horoscope reading and all such similar practices.” It
      also prohibits anyone or any group from "charging a fee for conducting the
      practice of communicating, attempting to communicate or pretending to
      communicate with departed spirits in a ritual generally referred to as
      'seances.' "

      Anyone not charging a fee wouldn’t be off the hook. The ordinance would require
      registering with the police chief before doing any of the practices free of
      charge.
      (...)

      Hundreds of pagans — people who meet for fellowship outside traditional
      Christian, Jewish or Muslim religions — crowded into the Moraine Government
      Center to address the ordinance.
      (...)

      Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio have said they
      will be monitoring the council's action. Legal Director Raymond Vasvari said the
      ordinance comes close to violating First Amendment rights and infringing on
      freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
      [...more...]


      11. U. Utah speakers seek to make goddesses holy images once again
      Daily Utah Chronicle/U-Wire, Jan. 24, 2001
      http://news.excite.com/news/uw/010124/university-101
      (U-WIRE) SALT LAKE CITY -- In the beginning of time, women ruled the world.
      Goddesses were worshiped and viewed as the creators of all life. But today these
      once holy images are lost, and two speakers Tuesday at the Women's Resource
      Center at the University of Utah hoped to raise awareness of these ancient
      goddesses.

      "By the time you're getting written literature the goddesses have already been
      turned into something dangerous," said former University of Utah Professor Emily
      Smith.

      "A lot of the symbols of the Goddess became demonized. If you couldn't demonize
      it, you took it over," Smith continued.

      Many symbols of evil and demonic beings started as symbols of a female-ruled
      society. The snake in ancient societies represented fertility and renewal,
      however, in Christian society it represents that which would lure a woman away
      from God, from the story of Eve.

      "Bulls and stags were originally Goddess symbols, not males," Smith said.

      Smith also suggests the Virgin Mary as a Goddess symbol, as she is the mother of
      the Christian God.
      (...)

      Jessica Wolfinger, the second speaker and a U social work student, also pointed
      out the myth of "Pandora's Box." Pandora is told never to open a certain box.

      But she does and she lets out all the pain and disease into the world, and has
      to reach far into the bottom of the box for hope.

      While the myth of Pandora is now used as a warning to all those who would
      disobey authority, Pandora literally means "all gifts."
      (...)

      The large crowd in attendance also heard about the ability of goddesses to carry
      over into much of everyday female life.

      "Archetypes are in our subconscious," Wolfinger said.
      [...more...]


      === Hate Groups

      12. Germany's Neo-Nazi Violence Surging
      AP, Jan. 26, 2001
      http://news.excite.com/news/ap/010126/13/int-germany-fading-past
      (...) As it marks its Holocaust remembrance day Saturday, Germany feels no
      closer to solving its extreme-right problem than it was five years ago, when it
      made the commemoration an annual fixture in hopes of educating a new generation
      about tolerance.
      (...)

      Extremists have usually vented their hatred of Jews by vandalizing synagogues
      and cemeteries; this time they seemed to be singling out an individual - one who
      was a slave laborer under the Nazi regime - simply for having a Jewish
      background.

      What came next didn't make things better. The young policemen who came to the
      couple's house offered them "Schutzhaft" - a term meaning protective custody but
      made notorious by the Gestapo as a euphemism for the jailing of Jews and
      political opponents.

      "Imagine what memories this triggered for me," the man said. "I couldn't believe
      my ears."

      After German media reported it and Jewish leaders expressed outrage, the cops
      returned to apologize, and the couple say they accept that "Schutzhaft" was used
      in ignorance.

      Police mounted raids on rightist hangouts in the Cottbus area and seized weapons
      and propaganda material. Thousands of Cottbus people rallied against the
      extremists at the site of the city's former synagogue.
      (...)

      Last year's jump in far-right crimes, to the worst levels since German
      unification in 1990, underscores the problem. Official figures due out this
      month record 840 violent anti-Semitic or anti-foreigner crimes in Germany in
      2000, about 100 more than in 1999.
      [...more...]


      === Other News

      13. Rights groups protest French anti-cult bill
      Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 27, 2001
      http://www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/epaper/editions/today/news_a32747e3d4a390c500ea.html
      Paris --- French lawmakers next week are expected to approve a new anti-cult law
      that mainstream church and civil liberties advocates are afraid will diminish
      religious freedom in France and discourage traditional evangelism.
      (...)

      Concerns revolve around two key provisions. The proposal would make it a crime
      for religious groups to engage in "mental manipulation," which opponents
      consider vague and open to perilous interpretations. Among other things, the
      proposed law would authorize a judge to legally dissolve an organization whose
      leaders are convicted of two or more criminal offenses. French legislators
      earlier this month toned down the "mental manipulation" provision, but concerns
      about the bill remain.
      (...)

      Its supporters respond that the law is a reasoned approach for a government
      attempting to protect citizens from unscrupulous organizations that prey on
      emotional needs.

      Catherine Picard, a member of the National Assembly and one of the bill's
      authors, has said she considers existing French law "inadequate to deal with
      increasingly sophisticated and manipulative groups."

      Picard said judges must be given better tools to combat dangerous cults and
      sects.
      (...)

      The law could expose religious groups, particularly fledgling or unpopular ones,
      to prosecution by a disenchanted member who claims to have been improperly
      influenced by someone in the group, opponents say. They also worry about
      provisions that could allow people to bring criminal charges against faith
      healers and others who promise but fail to deliver physical benefits through
      acceptance of religious belief.

      Opponents are particularly uncomfortable with a government report that lists
      some 173 groups as dangerous cults. The list includes Mormons, Unificationists
      (followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon), Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of
      Scientology. Despite widespread reports, the list does not include the Southern
      Baptist Convention.
      (...)

      Martin Weightman, a human rights monitor for the Church of Scientology, said the
      legislation is a product of the government's fear of upstart and unfamiliar
      religious groups.
      (...)

      The Scientologists are waging perhaps the most aggressive campaign against the
      law. Some believe the legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to strike out at
      the group, which has about 5,000 serious adherents and another 40,000 to 50,000
      people who have had some interaction with it.

      Last fall, thousands of Scientologists from the United States, Canada and Europe
      staged a protest against the proposed anti-sect law in France. Singer Isaac
      Hayes and actress Kirstie Alley, both Scientologists, participated.

      But the law also has significant mainstream opponents, including leaders among
      the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths. "It is particularly disheartening
      that the selfless act of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ could be equated
      to 'mental manipulation' of the public," said Morris Chapman, president of the
      Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee, responding to the law's
      initial legislative approval last summer.

      While many French religious leaders share the same misgivings, they are
      concerned about what they regard as an intrusion by Americans into what they see
      as a purely French controversy.

      "It is true that there are many problems with this law --- it is a remedy that
      is far worse than the problem it is meant to cure," said Jean-Arnold de
      Clermont, the president of the French Protestant Federation. "But it is untrue
      to say there are no religious freedoms in France."
      [...more...]

      * Mr. Weightman's statement is, of course, incorrect. It is precisely
      *because* the French government is familiar with extremist organizations like
      the "Church of Scientology," that the law was proposed.

      The misinformation that Baptists were targeted by the bill has been spread
      by Scientology and its related hate groups.

      For background information, see:

      The French and Germany Versus American Debate Over 'New Religions',
      Scientology, And Human Rights
      By Stephen A. Kent
      Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 6, No. 1 (January 2001)
      http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/kent2.html


      14. Va. Senate Panel Passes Pledge Bill
      Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2001
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48371-2001Jan25.html
      The Virginia Senate moved one step closer yesterday to requiring every public
      school student in the state to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag each morning,
      sparking lively debate among students and educators in classrooms across the
      region.

      An 11 to 3 vote in favor of the bill by the Education and Health Committee came
      after the bill's sponsor, Sen. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax) pulled back from a
      requirement that would have penalized students who refused to say the Pledge of
      Allegiance unless they had a note from a member of the clergy. Such a narrow
      exemption, conceded Barry and Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R), was
      potentially unconstitutional.

      The bill, as it is now written, would allow students with any religious or
      philosophical objection to reciting the pledge to sit out. Those students also
      would not be forced to stand, as Barry's original version required.
      (...)

      To take effect, the measure, SB1331, now needs approval in both houses of the
      General Assembly, which last year approved a bill -- also introduced by Barry --
      requiring students to observe a daily minute of silence in the classroom.

      Some schools are still trying to make the minute of silence run smoothly, and
      many students and educators across Northern Virginia said yesterday that they
      were surprised to see another state-required ritual headed for the classroom.
      (...)

      Barry, 67, a former U.S. Marine, made an impassioned plea yesterday to his
      committee colleagues to bring the state into the classroom once more to bolster
      patriotism. Love of country simply isn't what it ought to be, he said,
      describing a vast generation gap he said he found in many Northern Virginia
      schools, where students often sit out the salute.

      "You can't just say you don't feel like it," Barry said. "That just doesn't sit
      right."

      That interpretation drew protests from civil libertarians, who said the Supreme
      Court's 1943 ruling allowing Jehovah's Witnesses to opt out of flag salutes
      guarantees that the government cannot deny a child's First Amendment right to
      abstain.

      Even students and parents who like the idea said the pledge should be a very
      clear choice.
      (...)

      To become law, the bill must pass the full Senate and House by the time the
      annual legislative session ends Feb. 24 and be signed by Gov. James S. Gilmore
      III (R).
      [...more...]


      15. Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Selective Enforcement
      Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Jan. 26, 2001 (Opinion)
      http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/2001/01/26012001113826.asp
      Washington, 26 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Thirty-seven of the first 38 Russian
      religious congregations slated to be shut down for failing to reregister with
      the government are Muslim. Many Muslims are likely to view that pattern as
      representing a form of selective enforcement of the law. And to the extent they
      do, that alone could exacerbate relations between Russia's Christian and Muslim
      communities.

      The Keston News Service reported on Wednesday that officials in the North
      Caucasus Kabardino-Balkar republic last week initiated the first legal suits in
      the Russian Federation to shut down religious communities that failed to
      reregister with the Justice Ministry by the end of December 2000 as required by
      Russia's law on religion.

      The Britain-based religious rights watchdog service noted that even in that
      predominantly Islamic region, the Muslims appeared to be suffering the brunt of
      these legal actions. More than a third of its communities there will, if the
      courts rule in favor of the government, lose the right to publish, import or
      distribute literature, rent property, or sign any other kind of contract.

      None of the 18 Russian Orthodox churches, seven Adventist churches, seven
      Baptist groups, five Presbyterian churches, or five other Christian groups
      failed to gain the necessary registration. Indeed, the only non-Muslim group now
      at risk is the local Jehovah's Witnesses community, which local officials said
      threaten civil peace by their practice of propagandizing door to door.
      [...more...]


      Warning to Anna church (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God)
      This is London (England), Jan. 25, 2001
      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/dynamic/news/story.html?in_review_id=355410
      The fundamentalist Christian church which promised to exorcise demons from
      eight-year-old Anna Climbie days before she died has been forced by the NSPCC to
      stop using its logo.
      (...)

      A spokeswoman for the NSPCC said the church had made a donation in the past but
      had "misinterpreted" rules governing the logo's use.
      [...more...]


      === Death Penalty and other Human Rights Violations

      16. Prosecutor is moved by new data in capital case
      Boston Globe, Jan. 25, 2001
      http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/025/nation/Prosecutor_is_moved_by_new_data_in_capital_case+.shtml
      NASHVILLE - On a late afternoon last fall, a retired prosecutor, John Pierotti,
      watched a colleague opposed to the death penalty come up to him with a stack of
      new evidence. The data involved a capital case for which Pierotti's office had
      gotten a conviction 17 years earlier.

      Just more of his friend's foolishness, Pierotti thought. But at 3 a.m., he was
      still reading, and growing more concerned by the page that this defendant was
      not the man who had killed a Memphis police officer in 1981.

      Today, Pierotti will testify at the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole in a
      last-ditch effort to spare the life of Philip Workman, 46, who is scheduled for
      execution Wednesday.

      The prosecutor, author of victims' rights legislation, former district attorney,
      and death-penalty defender, will join defense lawyers, activists, and religious
      leaders in asking Governor Don Sundquist to commute Workman's sentence from
      death to life in prison.
      (...)

      In court papers, Minton and Dorsey have said that prosecutors surpressed
      evidence using ''fraud,'' and that the Memphis police ''coached'' a key witness
      into giving false testimony on the stand.

      ''Those men are friends of mine with 50 years experience between them,''
      Pierotti said of the prosecutors. ''I can't believe they would have knowingly
      done this.''

      Standing behind Pierotti, Dorsey of the state's Office of the Post-Conviction
      Defense in Nashville pursed his lips in obvious disagreement. Prosecutors did
      not admit until 16 months ago that an autopsy X-ray existed, despite repeated
      defense requests for all autopsy material.
      [...more...]

      * More about the death penalty
      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/d07.html


      Compiled by Anton Hein
      Apologetics Index
      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/

      ================================================================
      About Religion News Report
      - "Religion News Report" is provided as a service to the AR-talk apologetics
      research resources discussion list, where it is always posted first. For
      information about AR-talk, see http://apologia.org/mainpages/AboutARtalk.html
      - RNR is archived at the Apologetics Index web site:
      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/apolnews.html
      - Items include in RNR are provided as "information only." Unless otherwise
      indicated, no endorsements are intended.
      - Due to copyright considerations, only excerpts are quoted. For full stories,
      see the URLs provided.

      Retrieving Full Articles
      - If a URL breaks up, undo word-wrap.
      - If you do not have WWW access, you can retrieve the text of Web pages by
      email using Leadership University's EDoc service. For instructions, email
      edoc@... with in the body of the message one word: help

      Items On File
      - Some of these links stay up for only a day or two. I therefore keep the full
      items on file. Should you not be able to find them online, email
      rin@... Each request should include Issue and Item numbers
      (e.g. Issue 316, Items 5, 8, 9).
      - These items are provided for personal use and educational research purposes
      only, under the "fair use" concept as noted in copyright laws. Copyright for
      each item remains with the original copyright holder.

      Fowarding and Reposting
      - Religion News Report may be forwarded and reposted on a limited basis (2 or
      3 issues), but it is preferred that you encourage those interested to
      subscribe to AR-talk instead: http://apologia.org/mainpages/AboutARtalk.html
      - Many of the news items noted in Religion News Report are better understood in
      context of previous news items. While RNR is always posted first to the
      AR-talk list, it is archived at the Apologetics Index web site. Archived
      editions include links to relevant entries in the site's A-Z Index, and are
      added to the searchable news archive. If you forward or re-post individual
      items found through RNR, please mark them "As noted in Religion News Report,"
      and include a link to the RNR archive page:
      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/apolnews.html
      - Religion News Report may not be posted at any other web site.
      ================================================================
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.