Monday, February 28, 2011

Monk, Workers Shot in Monastery Attack in Egypt; Egyptian Army Destroys Church Protective Wall

One monk and six church workers were shot and wounded last week, when the Egyptian Army attacked a Coptic Orthodox monastery in order to destroy a wall monks had built to defend their property from raiders, the Worldwide Religion News website reports today (February 28, 2011).

The attack -- with small arms, heavy machine guns, and armored personnel carriers -- occurred on February 23 at the Anba Bishoy Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun, about 68 miles north of Cairo.

After a brief argument with monks and workers outside the monastery wall, soldiers opened fire on the crowd, sending them running for cover.

The soldiers then used armored personnel carriers to bulldoze the wall.

FBI File: "Ted" Kennedy Rented a Brothel in Chile; Watchdog Group Releases 1961 Memo on Event

The Boston Globe website reports today (February 28, 2011) that the late US Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy in 1961 -- at the age of 29 -- allegedly arranged to rent a brothel for the night in Santiago, Chile, according to material from his FBI file that was released today by a Washington-based conservative watchdog group.

Kennedy allegedly invited one of the Embassy chauffeurs to participate in the night's activities, according to a December 28, 1961 memo released by the group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch said the document from Kennedy's file had almost been completely redacted, but the watchdog group said it won release of a version with fewer redactions after battling with the Obama administration.

Judicial Watch -- the group that released the records -- said it had a "tough fight" with the Obama administration to get the material released, and the FBI's reluctance to release the file showed, "it, too, is not above politics."

Condo Assoc. Says Virgin Mary Statue Must Go; Condo Atty.: Assoc. Wants "to Clean Things Up"

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (February 28, 2011) that a woman living in Hilliard, Ohio says her condominium association told her to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary from outside her condo or face a possible $50 fine.

Lilla Kozlowski received a warning letter last week about the 3-foot-tall statue she says she has had since 2000.

Chris Bortz -- attorney for property manager Towne Properties -- said the condo board felt it was time "to clean things up" in the complex.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

COMMENTARY: Obama Endangers American Morality by Rejecting DOMA

President Barack Obama decided last week that his administration would no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.

DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, because some Americans wanted to have same-sex marriages. DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages, in addition to forbidding any federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Obama has changed his views on DOMA -- several American human rights groups have been pressuring the president to destroy it -- and he now believes that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals are human beings who need to be treated as equally as heterosexuals. Indeed, Obama's decision to abandon DOMA is a sad decision for American society and morality.

In fact, the Rev. Arthur Evans -- head of the National Black Church Initiative which represents some 34,000 African American churches in the United States -- said last week that the president has "failed to uphold Jesus' teaching" that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Rev. Evans also said that Obama "has violated the Christian faith and black churches must now reassess their extraordinary support for him." These are rather harsh words directed at Obama for abandoning DOMA -- even more so, when one considers the fact that they were stated by a black religious leader against America's first black president.

In describing marriage, the Bible clearly states that marriage is a union of one man and one woman: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis - 2:24)

Since President Obama now believes that it is no longer necessary to enforce DOMA -- thus allowing same-sex marriages to occur without a federal law to prohibit them -- we can expect American society and morality to deteriorate significantly in the ensuing years.

The fact is that same-sex marriages are unnatural and contrary to Christian doctrine. This being the case, same-sex marriages must not be allowed to take place in Christian Churches.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Archbishop Prohibits Gay Marriages in Churches; Tells MPs Govt. Cannot Tell Church What to Do

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (February 26, 2011) that the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the leader of the world's Anglicans -- has vowed to defend the Anglican Church's traditional stance on marriage against government moves to introduce homosexual weddings in churches.

Dr. Rowan Williams has refused to be drawn on the issue publicly, but has broken his silence to tell Members of Parliament (MPs) that he is not prepared for the government to tell the Church how to behave.

He told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England will not bow to pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships.

The tough line taken by the archbishop is expected to frustrate liberals in the Church, who have become increasingly disillusioned by his support for a conservative approach to controversial issues.

Secret Report: Said Musa Is Released from Prison; US Embassy Helps Free Afghan Christian Convert

Said Musa -- the Afghan Christian who was facing death for converting from Islam -- has been released from prison in Kabul, a Christian persecution watchdog website has reported.

"I got confirmation today that he is out of the countrry," Aidan Clay, of International Christian Concern said. "It's done. He's out," Clay said of Musa.

Clay said a close friend of Musa called him to let him know that a representative from the US Embassy in Kabul had contacted him with the good news.

"It was a very tense situation. The US government and others didn't want anything to go wrong. Everything needed to be done very, very quietly, because of the political ramifications that it could have had," Clay said.

Quaker Sailor Released as Conscientious Objector; Naval Officer Likened Quakers to a Jim Jones Cult

The Christian Post website reports today (February 26, 2011) that the US Navy honorably discharged a religious conscientious objector this week, after he sued the military branch.

Ensign Michael Izbicki, a Quaker, was released from the Navy on February 23, as a result of a two-year battle to be discharged as a conscientious objector.

A recent graduate of the US Naval Academy, Izbicki was in the process of suing the Navy with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for his release.

"We are pleased that the Navy has now followed Federal law and military regulations and respected Michael Izbicki's sincere and deeply held religious beliefs," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of ACLU-CT.

The Navy's investigating officer in the case -- who did not believe that Izbicki was a conscientious objector -- likened Quakers to Jim Jones' cult.

Church Coalition Blasts Obama for Ending DOMA; Says Obama "Failed to Uphold Jesus' Teaching"

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (February 26, 2011) that a coalition of black churches is angry with President Barack Obama over his decision to stop defending a law that bans gay marriage.

Rev. Arthur Evans -- head of the National Black Church Initiative which represents some 34,000 African American churches in the US -- said the president has "failed to uphold Jesus' teaching" that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Evans said Obama "has violated the Christian faith" and black churches must now "reassess their extraordinary support for him."

Earlier this week, Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Muslims, ACLU Sue FBI Over Spying in Mosque; Say FBI Employed Informant to Get Personal Info

Is sending a secret informant into a mosque in search of terrorists proactive policing -- or is it a violation of worshipers' civil rights?

That's the question a federal judge will have to answer, after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council of American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit on February 22, 2011 in Los Angeles against the FBI, according to the Huffington Post website.

The suit charges the FBI targeted Muslims for surveillance based solely on their religious affiliation, thus violating their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit says the FBI's Los Angeles office paid Craig Monteilh, an Irvine, Calif. resident, to "indiscriminately collect" phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other personal information on hundreds or even thousands of Muslims in Southern California.

WCC Rips US Veto of UN Resolution on Israel; Calls US Veto A "Mistake" That Threatens Peace

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee today expressed "its deep concern and disappointment" at the recent veto by the United States of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning continued settlement construction by Israel in the Palestinian Territories.

The US veto of the resolution on February 18, 2011 -- which was co-sponsored by 130 countries and supported by 14 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council -- "contradicts the statement" made by President Barack Obama in Cairo in June 2010 that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," the WCC said.

The Central Committee statement called the US veto "a deeply regrettable mistake" and called upon the US government "to intensify efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in the region with respect to law and justice."

Catholic Bishops Support Wis. Union Protesters; Say Workers' Rights Endure in Poor Econ. Times

The Ethics Daily website reports today (February 25, 2011) that US Catholic bishops have thrown their moral weight behind the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin, saying the rights of workers do not abate in difficult economic times.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees is necessary to close a $137 million deficit in the state's budget.

The US bishops' committee on domestic justice support for unions came in the form of a public letter yesterday to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who conveyed his support of the unions last week.

"Your efforts to share the consistent teaching of the church in the midst of this controversy are an example for all of us on how to apply our moral principles to the 'signs of the times,'" the bishops' letter states.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Okla. Police Captain Faces Disciplinary Action; Refused to Order Officers to Attend Islamic Event

The Fox News website reports today (February 24, 2011) that the Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department is investigating a captain who refused an order to assign officers to attend an upcoming Islamic event, because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.

Capt. Paul Fields was reassigned after he refused to order officers under his command to attend the Islamic Center of Tulsa's Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a spokesman for the department said.

"It is my opinion and that of my legal counsel that forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my civil rights," Fields wrote in a police department memo.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the event was about community relations, not religion.

EastJet Apologizes to Jewish Passengers for Food; Served Pork Products on London-Tel Aviv Flight

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (February 24, 2011) that EasyJet apologized to Jewish passengers on its London-Tel Aviv route who were offered ham melts and bacon baguettes.

It is the airline's policy not to have any pork products on board the planes on that route.

The kosher menu includes egg, mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches; smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels; mozzarella and tomato panini; and a muffin or chocolate orange mini cake.

The wrong food canisters were loaded on the plane for the four-and-a-half hour flight, according to the airline spokeswoman, who apologized to the passengers for the mistake.

Pope: A Person's Life Must Be Inspired by Prayer; We Must View God's Love as a Source of Great Joy

The National Catholic Register website reports today (February 24, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday -- at his weekly general audience -- that every person's actions and life must be inspired by prayer and the Gospel, by living simply and helping others, and not by accumulating wealth.

The Pope highlighted the life and writings of St. Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit theologian who lived from 1542 to 1621.

St. Bellarmine offered an important model for prayer -- which should be the inspiration for every action -- the Pope told an estimated 7,500 people gathered for the audience in the Paul VI hall.

The Pope said a unique feature of St. Bellarmine's spirituality was his deeply felt perception of God's immense goodness; he felt like a true child of God, whose love was a source of great joy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

COMMENTARY: President of Ukraine Must Stop Favoritism for His Church Preference

The year was 988 -- indeed an inspiring year when Prince Vladimir the Great of Kiev accepted Orthodox Christianity and brought Ukraine and Russia under the influence of the Byzantine Empire.

Unfortunately, Prince Vladimir would be turning in his grave today, if he knew what was happening to the church he so proudly adopted for his pagan homeland.

A brief overview of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches as they exist today will provide a clearer perspective of the current situation.

Orthodox Christianity remains the primary religion of Ukraine, with 70 percent of Ukrainians still belonging to that faith.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is divided into three branches; namely, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous (self-headed) Orthodox Church which is independent. There is also the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, whose jurisdiction is under the Pope in Rome.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent nation. Thereafter, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- Kiev Patriarchate came into being by breaking away from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- Moscow Patriarchate, since many Ukrainians believed that the church -- as well as the state -- should be independent of Russia.

Sad to say, this schism has resulted in much controversy -- especially during the past two years -- as Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has been trying diligently to end the Kiev Patriarchate, and thus significantly increase the number of Ukrainians in the Moscow Patriarchate.

At the same time, Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine, has clearly shown favoritism toward the Moscow Patriarchate. For example, during his recent inauguration, Yanukovych publicly snubbed Patriarch Filaret (Kiev Patriarchate), Metropolitan Myfodi (Autocephalous Orthodox), and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar (Greek Catholic) by inviting Patriarch Kirill -- a non-Ukrainian -- to offer the blessing.

Moreover, in January 2011, fifty deputies of the Ukrainian parliament issued a statement that said in part, "We are deeply concerned about the support you (President Viktor Yanukovych), as head of the Ukrainian state, and the government in general, give to one religious organization -- the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate -- while other religious organizations that unite millions of Ukrainians are demonstratively neglected and discriminated by the authorities."

The deputies' statement was prompted by growing concerns that Holy Sophia Monastery in Kiev will be transferred from neutral state control to the Moscow Patriarchate. Currently, Ukraine's four largest Christian groups have access to this sacred monastery.

Indeed, the Orthodox Christian Church in Ukraine is experiencing some serious problems. These problems would not exist if all the Orthodox branches in Ukraine were treated equally by the government. Like it or not, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate is not going to "disappear," but will remain a part of Ukraine's religion ad infinitum.

It is now time for Ukrainian President Yanukovych to treat all of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches -- as well as all Ukrainians -- equally. To do otherwise will only exacerbate the current problem, in addition to portraying Yanukovych as being autocratic and unfair by using his political power in his attempt to destroy a Church of Christ.

Obama Admin. Drops Its Defense of DOMA; Ends Viewing Marriage as a Union of a Man and Woman

The Obama administration will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- which defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman -- Attorney General Eric Holder announced today (February 23, 2011).

According to the Catholic Culture website, the Justice Department usually defends all federal laws against challenges. But Holder said if no "reasonable" defense is available, his department does not offer such defense.

Holder said President Obama has changed his views on DOMA, and "concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny."

Ukrainian Americans Express Concern of UOC-KP; Send Letter to President Yanukovych for Clarity

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine website reports today (February 23, 2011) that Orthodox Ukrainians in the United States have written a letter to President Viktor Yanukovych expressing their concerns over the current situation of church-state relations in Ukraine -- especially with respect to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP).

In the letter, the Ukrainian-Americans write that they are concerned about UOC-KP Patriarch Filaret's recent statements that "in Ukraine, attempts are being made to realize a large-scale plan to destroy the Kyivan Patriarchate."

The letter also states that the UOC-KP is the only Ukrainian-based Orthodox structure caring for Ukrainians abroad. "The Moscow Patriarchate does not have, and cannot have, parishes abroad," the letter continues.

Finally, the letter asks President Yanukovych "to take the necessary steps to normalize church-state relations by meeting with the Holy Patriarch (of UOC-KP), and explaining the official position of the head of the Ukrainian state."

Interest in the status of the UOC-KP was sparked recently by a letter from its leader, Patriarch Filaret, saying that he has evidence that the Moscow Patriarchate is attempting to destroy the UOC-KP.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WCC Agrees on Theme for Next General Assembly; Theme: "God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace"

The theme of "God of life, lead us to justice and peace" was confirmed today (February 22, 2011) by members of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) deliberations for its next General Assembly, according to the Christian Today website.

The WCC said the theme was "not merely a slogan or motto" for the Assembly, but would provide a focus for theological reflection, worship, and meditation.

WCC General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit expressed his support for the outcome of the vote. "Seeking justice and peace is a call to unity," he told delegates.

The 10th Assembly of the WCC will take place in Busan, South Korea in 2013.

Brazilian Pastor Shot Dead in Front of His Church; Believed He Was Shot Due to Church's Noise Level

A Brazilian pastor was shot dead Sunday (February 20, 2011) in front of his church in Campo Grande City, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hegnaldo da Silva Viana, 44, was shot twice in the neck, according to the Christian Post website.

Witnesses reported an unidentified man briefly arguing with the pastor before gunshots were heard.

According to sources, the suspect lived in the neighborhood near the Evangelical Community Church of God, where Viana had ministered for four years.

Last Christmas eve -- following church services -- the same man reportedly complained to the pastor about the church's noise level, and threatened the pastor. His threat resulted in the pastor filing a report with the local police.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Synagogue Is Opened In Hamelin, Germany; First German Reform Synagogue Built Since WW II

The first Jewish reform synagogue to be built in Germany since the Holocaust was officially opened on Sunday (February 20, 2011), in the western town of Hamelin, according to the Monsters and Critics website.

The Jewish cultural center was built on the site of an old synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.

The place of worship was inaugurated by rolls of the Torah scripture, on which all Jewish laws are based, being placed in their designated storage cupboards at the front of the synagogue.

The scrolls -- which are more than 100 years old -- originated in Germany and were returned by New York Rabbi Jo David.

Rel. Leaders in Denmark Unite Against Violence; Christians, Jews, Muslims Prosper Side by Side

The Copenhagen Post website reports today (February 21, 2011) that Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Denmark have united to fight against religious hate crimes.

An increase in religiously motivated violence has led to the three main religious communities in Denmark to join forces to encourage mutual respect and tolerance.

"Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all have common roots," said Rev. Peter Skov-Jacobsen, the bishop of Copenhagen. "And when the root is the same, it must be possible for them to live and prosper side by side."

On March 21, the Copenhagen City Council will schedule a campaign against religious harassment in connection with the United Nations anti-racism day.

Egypt's Muslims Decide to Start a Political Party; New Party Is Designed to Provide a Better Future

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (February 21, 2011) that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement has decided to establish a political party.

Mohammed Badie, a senior member of the movement, today said, "The establishment of this party answers the aspirations of the Egyptian people for a better future."

The structure and leadership of the party -- expected to be called the Freedom and Justice Party -- will be announced soon, Badie added.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement -- founded in 1928 and banned in 1954 -- was outlawed in Egypt by Hosni Mubarak, who resigned as Egyptian president on February 11, after 18 days of large-scale anti-government protests.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catholic Church Being Built in Capital of Guyana; On Site of Church Used by Cult Leader Jim Jones

Officials in the South American nation of Guyana are building a colonial church -- replacing the one destroyed by fire six years ago -- on the same site that had served as a base for US cult leader Jim Jones in the mid-1970s, according to the Worldwide Religious News website.

Construction of the new Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown -- the capital of Guyana -- began on February 18, 2011, church spokesman Ramsal Alli said.

The $450,000 church will be built in concrete -- the previous one was wooden -- and is designed to hold 500 parishioners.

On November 18, 1978, Jones led more than 900 cult members -- mostly Americans -- into a jungle clearing, where they drank cyanide-laced grape-flavored punch, while others were shot by guards loyal to Jones.

COMMENTARY: US Veto of UN Resolution May Incite War in Middle East

A veto by the US in the UN Security Council last week that blocked a resolution to end illegal Israeli construction of housing on land designated to be part of Palestine, has quashed peace talks, and will probably serve as a harbinger for increased violence and perhaps even war in the Middle East.

The US veto -- the only veto on the resolution approved by all of the other 14 members of the UN Security Council -- in effect killed the resolution and allows Israelis to continue to illegally build housing on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Leaders of more than a dozen Christian churches and organizations had written to President Obama several days before the UN vote, urging the US President to support the UN Security Council resolution, since doing so would greatly enhance the prospect for peace in the Middle East. The church leaders' pleas were obviously ignored by President Obama.

The US veto of the resolution has infuriated Palestinians -- who will not resume peace talks until Israel stops its illegal settlement building -- as Palestinians are calling for a "day of rage" against America next Friday (February 25) -- one week after the vote in the Security Council.

In fact, one Palestinian leader, Tawfik Tirawi, called the US veto "blackmail" that exposes the true face of America. Tirawa said America's refusal to take a real stand against settlements -- despite opposition in the Security Council and longstanding US policy -- shows "they are liars who pretend to support democracy and peace. Far from it."

Needless to say, Palestinians are infuriated with the US veto and view America as being insincere, since the US had adamantly opposed construction of Israeli settlements during the past several months.

Why did the US change its previous stance, and allow Israel to continue to build homes on Palestinian land by vetoing the resolution in the UN Security Council that would have stopped Israel from doing so? The answer is because the US has been Israel's closest ally since Israel became an independent nation in 1948. But does that mean that the US should encourage war -- rather than peace -- in the Middle East just because it feels it has an obligation to support Israel?

Of course not!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

UC Ends Policy Calling Christians "Oppressors;" Says It Erred Defining Religious Discrimination

A school-wide policy at the University of California-Davis that accused Christians of discriminating against other faiths has been changed, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

University officials agreed on February 16, 2011 to revise its "Principles of Community" document, following complaints from Christian students who felt they were unfairly targeted.

The school had defined religious discrimination as, "The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture's religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppression toward those who are not Christians."

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) -- a Christian legal group -- wrote a letter of objection to the school on behalf of more than two dozen students. The university apologized, saying Christian students should not have been singled out.

Male Teen Refuses to Wrestle Girl Due to Faith; His Church Forbids Contact of Opposite Sex Teens

A high school wrestler in Iowa has refused to compete against a female opponent due to his Christian beliefs, the Christian Post website reports today (February 19, 2011).

Upon hearing that the match would be with a girl in the state tournament, Joel Northrup decided to lose by default rather than compete against Casey Herkelman.

The boy's father is a minister at Believers in Grace Fellowship -- an independent Pentecostal church in Marion, Iowa.

The church believes that teens of opposite sex should not compete in physical contact with each other in a "familiar way," according to the church's pastor.

Pentecostalism Is Changing Face of Christianity; Now Considered World's Fastest-Growing Faith

The Ekklesia website reports today (February 19, 2011) that the "phenomenal growth" of Pentecostalism is changing the worldwide landscape of Christianity, but is also putting global disparities into sharp relief, a World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in Geneva was told this week.

As it sweeps through the global South and related diaspora communities in the global North, Pentecostalism is developing "amongst people who are disproportionately impoverished, imprisoned, infirmed, and enslaved," said the Rev. Jennifer Leath, an ordained pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, USA, at a WCC meeting on February 17.

Pentecostalism -- a movement characterized by ecstatic, rapturous worship that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century -- has been described as the world's fastest-growing faith.

There are now between 250 and 500 million Pentecostals worldwide -- many of them in the southern hemisphere.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ELCA Head Rips US Veto in UN Security Council; Veto Allows Israel to Build Housing in Palestine

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) website reports that the Rev. Mark Hanson -- presiding bishop of the ELCA -- said he is "dismayed" that the US government today (February 18, 2011) vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that called on Israel to stop illegal construction of settlements on Palestinian land.

The US veto, in effect, killed the resolution, which had the backing of 14 other members of the UN Security Council.

"I now am concerned that this action will increase a despondent mood about the future of such talks and will possibly strengthen extremist voices in the region who call for a less peaceful resolution of these issues," Hanson said in a statement issued shortly after today's vote.

Earlier this month, Hanson and 12 leaders of Christian churches and organizations wrote to President Barack Obama, urging his administration to support the UN Security Council resolution. Their appeal obviously had little or no impact on the Obama Administration.

Three Men Arrested for Burning 8' Cross in NJ; Believed African-American Family Owned Cross

Three men have been arrested and charged in connection to a burning cross spotted off the side of a highway in southern New Jersey, the Associated Press website reports today (February 18, 2011).

State Police spokesman Stephen Jones says the three men were seen near the 8-by-4-foot wooden cross , which was set ablaze off Route 9 in Bass River Township, NJ around 8 p.m. last Wednesday.

The three men arrested are Nicholas Comis, 22, Daniel Enders, 22, and Christopher Hurrll, 21, all of New Jersey. Investigators say an African-American family lives near the area where the cross was located.

The three men have been charged with bias intimidation and conspiracy to commit arson. The charges carry a three- to five-year prison sentence upon conviction.

Secret Report: Mubarak Refused to Talk to Obama; Offered Saudi Asylum But Prefers to Stay in Egypt

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to accept a phone call from US President Barack Obama last week, because he felt humiliated and embittered that Obama had made a statement calling on him to resign immediately, the Ynet News (Israeli) website reports today (February 18, 2011).

Mubarak -- whose net worth is estimated by those close to him to be about $70 billion -- is now residing at his palace in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he flew by helicopter from Cairo. He is maintaining a similar lifestyle, although he has hired several additional guards.

Israel has approved the entry of two Egyptian army battalions into the southernmost Sinai city, in order to help guard Mubarak's palace.

Mubarak's health has been deteriorating rapidly, since he was forced to resign the Egyptian presidency. Saudi King Abdullah offered Mubarak asylum in Saudi Arabia, but the former president of Egypt refused the invitation, saying he would like to die on Egyptian land.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mob That Attacked Lara Logan Yelled "Jew! Jew!;" Networks Covered This Up to Focus on Mubarak

The Examiner website reports today (February 17, 2011) that on the night of February 11 -- after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned -- CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten by a group of 200 thugs who shouted "Jew! Jew!"

In their newscasts, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and Fox News all left out the fact that Egyptians who assaulted Logan were motivated by hatred of Jews, as indicated by their taunts while the attack took place.

Moreover, no one in the crowd came to Logan's aid. She was finally helped by a few Egyptian soldiers and a group of women.

Why did all of the major TV networks cover up this anti-Semitism? They probably covered it up because the Egyptian protests were focused on the liberation of Egypt from an oppressive dictator, and not on anti-Semitism. Had the networks reported the incident, the focus would have shifted to Egyptian attitudes toward neighboring Israel and toward women in general.

Meeting of Pope and Russian Patriarch Is Doable; Russian Church: Will Occur When It's Appropriate

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (February 17, 2011) that a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope will occur when there are appropriate conditions for it, according to the Moscow Patriarchate.

"The Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church maintain a regime of constant communication and consultations at various levels," the Moscow Patriarchate said.

Currently, a meeting between Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill appears to be more likely than ever.

A formal invitation to the Pope to visit Russia has not yet occurred, although it is expected to happen in the near future.

Christians in Singapore Up to 18 Percent of Pop.; Many Chinese Buddhists Converted to Christianity

The Asia News website reports today (February 17, 2011) that Christianity in Singapore saw the greatest increase in followers over the past 10 years, according to the 2010 government census. Christians now form 18 percent of the population -- up 3 percent from 2000.

Taoism and Hinduism also reported significant growth -- hitting 11 percent and 5 percent respectively in 2010. Islam remained stable at 15 percent, while Buddhism saw the largest drop in followers -- from 43 percent to 33 percent over 10 years.

Detailed figures suggest that many Christian converts are ethnic Chinese who previously followed Buddhism.

"Christian groups offer a sense of community that is ideal for new residents," said researcher Mathew Mathews from the Institute of Policy Studies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Church Trial Set for Lesbian Methodist Minister; Rev. Amy DeLong's Trial Will Begin on April 11th

United Methodists are weighing in on the debate over an Appleton, Wisconsin minister who faces a church trial for her homosexual lifestyle, the Christian Post website reports today (February 16, 2011).

The Rev. Amy DeLong is scheduled to go to trial on April 11. Two charges were brought against her -- one for conducting a ceremony for the union of a lesbian couple and another for being a self-avowed practicing homosexual.

DeLong -- who has served as a clergy member for 14 years -- officiated at a lesbian couple's union in 2009, then registered with her same-sex partner that same year, according to the United Methodist News Service (UMNS).

She told UMNS that hiding her lesbian preference was "taking a toll on my soul and psyche."

Patriarch Speaks of Egypt's Historic Opportunity; Says Egypt Now on Brink of a Democratic System

The leader of Coptic Catholics in Egypt has spoken of an "historic opportunity" for the people, describing how the country now stands on the brink of achieving the "dream" of a democratic system, the Ekklesia website reports today (February 16, 2011).

Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria, welcomed the interim military regime's stated aim of dismantling the autocratic style of government built up over 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, who resigned as president of Egypt on February 11.

Speaking from Alexandria today in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Naguib said, "Moving towards a civil democratic government -- rather than a religious or a military one -- has been our hope for a long time. It has been a dream."

Egypt is a country with 200,000 Coptic Catholics and about eight million Coptic Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Naguib said, "We will encourage very much all the members of the Church to participate in the elections. It is for us an historic opportunity."

COMMENTARY: Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy Must Be Replaced

A judge in Italy ruled this week that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be tried on April 6, 2011 on charges that he paid for sex with an underage nightclub dancer, and then tried to cover it up.

Berlusconi, 74, is suspected of trying to hide evidence on meetings he allegedly had with Moroccan exotic dancer Ruby Rubacuori last year when she was only 17. Incredible as it may seem, the fact is that Berlusconi is more than four times as old as Ruby.

Ruby admitted to an Italian newspaper that the billionaire Berlusconi showered her with several "gifts," including an Audi R8 sports car, a diamond necklace, and $9,700 in cash. Nonetheless, both Ruby and the prime minister deny that they had sexual relations.

Italian prosecutors investigating the case are convinced that Ruby stayed overnight at the prime minister's villa near Milan last year on several occasions.

The Vatican -- in an obviously graceful way of calling for Berlusconi to resign -- issued a statement two weeks ago, which said that it was "particularly worried" about the impact that the scandal was having in Italy.

During the past week, more than 100,000 Italians have been protesting against Berlusconi's affairs -- apparently he has had several affairs with women -- and called for his resignation. Signs displayed by protesters indicate that the prime minister treats women as "sex objects" and that he should be "kicked out" of office.

Indeed, Berlusconi should resign his position as prime minister of Italy -- and fast -- or it should be taken away from him by the Italian legislature.

There are just too many situations in Italy that need to be addressed with the full attention and time that they require. Italy cannot afford to have a prime minister who will put these critical issues on the "back burner" and have them superseded with his fascination for women.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Secret Report: Irish Church on Verge of Collapse; Ireland's Priest Assoc. to Inform Pope of Plight

The Clerical Whispers website reports on February 16, 2011 that Pope Benedict XVI will be officially told that the Irish Catholic Church is "on the edge of a national collapse," and has only five to ten years to make a radical recovery by giving laymen and women a greater say in decision-making.

The warning will be submitted to the Pope in the next month or two in a confidential report by an international investigator examining the state of the Irish church, in the wake of the Murphy and Ryan reports into clerical child abuse.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, gave this commitment at a private meeting with members of the recently formed Catholic Priests' Association, Redemptorist priest Fr. Tony Flannery revealed this past weekend.

Fr. Flannery said Cardinal O'Malley told the association that the Irish Catholic Church had a decade -- at most -- to avoid falling over the edge and "becoming like other European countries" where religion is marginal to society.

"Most Wanted" Nazi Kepiro Is Nabbed in Hungary; Charged with 1942 Massacre in Novi Sad, Serbia

The BBC website reports today (February 15, 2011) that Hungarian prosecutors have charged former captain Sandor Kepiro with a notorious massacre in the Serbian city of Novi Sad.

More than 1,200 Jewish, Serb, and Roma civilians were murdered over three days by Hungarian forces.

Kepiro is at the top of a list of most wanted Nazis compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Hundreds of families were rounded up by the Hungarians -- allies of Nazi Germany -- in January 1942 on the banks of the Danube River in Novi Sad and then shot to death.

Italian Premier Berlusconi's Trial Is Set for April 6; Charged with Paying for Sex with Underage Dancer

A judge ruled today (February 15, 2011) that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be tried on charges that he paid for sex with an underage nightclub dancer and then tried to cover it up, according to the New York Daily News website.

The trial will begin April 6, said Italian Judge Cristina DiCenso.

The 74-year-old playboy politician is suspected of trying to hide evidence on meetings he allegedly had with Moroccan exotic dancer Ruby Rubacuori -- nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer -- between February and May last year. She was 17 at the time.

Last November, Ruby told an Italian newspaper that she only paid one visit to the billionaire prime minister in February 2010. She said Berlusconi showered her with gifts, including a diamond necklace, an Audi R8 sports car, and $9,700 in cash.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pastor Joel Osteen Says Homosexuality Is a Sin; Also Indicates He Opposes Gay Civil Partnerships

Joel Osteen, pastor of a Texas megachurch and best-selling author, has identified homosexuality as a sin, according to the Power News Network website.

"The Scriptures show that it's a sin," said Osteen in a recent television interview. He added, "I don't believe homosexuality is God's best for a person's life."

Osteen also indicated in the interview that he was against gay civil partnerships, but stated, "I'm not going to bash those people. I say it's wrong because that's what the Scriptures say."

Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, housed in a 16,000-seat auditorium. It is the largest worship center in the United States.

Female Chaplain Filed Rape Charges against Priest; Later Confessed She Had an Affair with the Priest

The Catholic Culture website reports today (February 14, 2011) that a female Catholic chaplain at John Henry Newman College in Birmingham, England has confessed that she fabricated a rape charge against a priest with whom she had worked on an earlier assignment.

Father Patrick Udoma had been ousted from his post as pastor in Birmingham after Emma Templeton filed rape charges.

But police discovered dozens of text messages on her cell phone that supported the priest's defense: They had a short, consensual affair.

A court sentenced Templeton to 10 months in prison for filing the false charge, but suspended the sentence.

Gaddafi to Palestinians: Revolt Against Israel; Wants Boats Around Israel Until Demands Met

The Reuters website reports today (February 14, 2011) that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said yesterday that Palestinian refugees should mass peacefully on the borders of Israel until it gives in to their demands.

"Fleets of boats should take Palestinians... and wait by the Palestinian shores until the problem is resolved," Gaddafi was shown saying on state television. He added, "This is a time of popular revolutions," in an obvious reference to the recent huge Mideast protests in Egypt and Tunisia.

His speech yesterday marked the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed -- a holy day in the Islamic calendar.

Gaddafi concluded his speech by saying, "All Arab states which have relations with Israel are cowardly regimes."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prayer Vigil in Front of White House on Feb. 14; Being Held to Support Religious Freedom in Iraq

Faith organizations plan to hold a prayer vigil in front of the White House on February 14, 2011 in support of persecuted Christians and religious freedom for all in Iraq, the Assyrian International News Agency website reports today (Feb. 13).

The groups will be joined by staff from the Embassy of Iraq and Christians in Iraq via a conference call.

The prayer vigil will be on Monday, February 14, 2011, at 11:00 A.M. in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

This prayer event begins the observance of "The Rogation of the Ninevites," which is one of the oldest traditions in Christianity. The "Rogation" finds its ancient roots in the Prophet Jonah, and is observed by Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac Christians in Iraq and around the world.

COMMENTARY: Bible Course Elective in Public Schools Is a Good Idea

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill last week to add Bible classes to the curriculum of that state's public schools.

According to the measure, students would be able to take a Bible course as a social studies elective.

Sen. Joe Bowen -- sponsor of the bill -- said that the intention is to acquaint students with a book that has a tremendous impact on American society and Western culture.

Indeed, it is appropriate and important to offer an academic course on the Bible, since it is used so much by American citizens. A brief overview of American education as it relates to religion may be in order here.

The fact is that in Colonial America, schools were run mostly by churches. The primary reason that the first settlers in America began to educate children in schools was so that children could read the Bible.

Developing good moral character was considered as important as learning the three Rs -- reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic -- in Colonial America. Moreover, school prayer was a natural part of the Pilgrims' school life.

This "religious motive" for America's public schools changed shockingly in 1963, when the US Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 8 to 1 in favor of abolishing school prayer and Bible reading in public schools. The high court ruling involved a case initiated by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a left wing atheist, who was adamant that prayer in America's public schools was unconstitutional, because it was in violation of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

In making its decision in the O'Hair case, the Supreme Court asserted, "religious freedom, it has long been recognized that the government must be neutral and, while protecting all, must prefer none and disparage none."

The Supreme Court ruling in the O'Hair case, in effect, favored atheism, at the expense of America's Christian majority! Moreover, it has had a significant impact in making America a land with much looser morals than was the case before 1963, and this immorality is having a negative effect on all sectors of our society.

It will be interesting to see if the Kentucky public schools -- once they add a Bible course as an elective to the curriculum -- will be challenged to the Supreme Court by another atheist. (It won't be O'Hair since she was assassinated in the early 1990s.) The fact that it will be an elective course -- and not required to be taken by any student -- indicates that it will probably be allowed to continue to be taught.

On the other hand, we should not be too optimistic, because the US Supreme Court is noted for making decisions that tend to contradict -- or certainly appear to contradict -- the American democratic process, as well as the values and ideals upon which this great nation was founded.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Expert: Mubarak's Exit Good for Coptic Christians; Did Not Grant Christians Same Rights as Muslims

The Christian Today website reports today (February 12, 2011) that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation yesterday is good for the country's Coptic Orthodox Christians, according to a religious freedom expert.

Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, DC, said, "I think Mubarak's resignation is a good thing for Coptic Christians, and other Egyptians."

He added, "The key question is what comes next. Can and will the military and (Vice President) Suleiman make real reforms that satisfy those demonstrating for freedom and preserve stability?"

Coptic Orthodox Christians -- who make up about 12 percent of Egypt's 80 million population -- have united and protested alongside Muslims during the anti-government demonstrations. Mubarak, a Muslim, did not grant Egypt's Christians the same rights he granted Muslims, and tended to "look the other way" when innocent Egyptian Christians were assassinated by Muslim extremists.

Afghan Christian Ordered Executed within Days; Said Musa, 45, to Be Hanged for His Christianity

An Afghan aid worker is facing execution within days for converting to Christianity, the Christian Post website reports today (February 12, 2011).

Said Musa, 45, was told by a judge that he would be hanged within days unless he reconverts to Islam.

But the father of six has refused to renounce his faith, saying, "My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell."

Musa has been held in prison since last May, after a local TV network broadcast secret images of Afghan Christians being baptized by westerners.

Hawaii House of Rep. to Keep Prayer in Capitol; Senate Ended Its Prayer Due to ACLU Pressure

Hawaii's House of Representatives will continue to open its daily sessions with prayer, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (February 12, 2011).

Last month, the Aloha State Senate voted to cancel the opening invocation after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) questioned the practice.

The House passed rules to ensure that prayers can mention a deity or God, but cannot be critical of other religions.

House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro said the rules were made to ensure that lawmakers followed prior US Supreme Court rulings on the constitutionality of legislative prayer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

French President: Multiculturalism Has Failed; Says Various Groups in France "Melt" in Society

The Yahoo News website reports today (February 11, 2011) that French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared yesterday in a television interview that multiculturalism has failed.

"My answer is yes, it is a failure," he said when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

"If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France," the right-wing president said.

Last year -- backed by the strong support of President Sarkozy -- France became the first country in all of Europe to prohibit Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public.

ADL Expresses Hope after Mubarak's Resignation; Calls for the Peaceful Transition of Power in Egypt

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reacted to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today (February 11, 2011), calling the announcement "an extraordinary historic development for Egypt and the Middle East," according to the Spero Forum website.

ADL -- a US-based Jewish-operated human rights organization -- in a statement expressed hope that the transition of power would unfold peacefully.

The ADL statement says: "The demonstrations by the people of Egypt against the regime's authoritarianism and repression, and their demands for greater freedom, political accountability and transparency, have been inspiring to all who cherish democracy and liberty."

Currently, the Egyptian military is governing Egypt, as a result of Mubarak's departure from power.

KY Senate Passes Bill to Teach Bible in Schools; Bible Course Would Be a Social Studies Elective

The Christian Post website reports today (February 11, 2011) that the Kentucky Senate passed a bill by a vote of 34-1 this week to add Bible classes to the curriculum in public schools.

The measure directs the Kentucky Board of Education to create guidelines on a curriculum around the Bible. According to the measure, students would be able to take a Bible course as a social studies elective centered on Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) -- sponsor of the bill -- said the purpose of the legislation is Bible literacy.

Bowen added that the intention is to acquaint students with a book that has tremendous impact on American society and Western culture.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

US Judge Rejects Atheist's Lawsuit on Cross Grant; Atheist Sought to Block Grant for Cross Repair

A federal judge in Illinois has tossed out a Chicago-area atheist's quest to force the return of a state grant given to restoration efforts of a southern Illinois cross landmark, according to the CNS News website.

US District Court Judge Michael McCuskey -- central Illinois' chief federal jurist -- threw out Rob Sherman's lawsuit on February 8, 2011.

McCuskey accepted the recommendation of US Magistrate David Bernthal, who last week refused to reconsider his decision to reject Sherman's lawsuit over the $20,000 grant to the 11-story tall Bald Knob Cross of Peace.

Bernthal ruled the state's economic-development agency has discretion in how it doles out its money.

"Zorba" Composer Calls Himself an Anti-Semite; Mikis Theodorakis: US Jews Caused Econ. Crises

The Jewish Week website reports today (February 10, 2011) that Mikis Theodorakis -- the Greek composer who wrote the music for the film "Zorba the Greek" -- said in a television interview that he is an "anti-Semite and anti-Zionist."

Theodorakis, 86, a hero of Greece, also said in the interview on Greece's High Channel that "American Jews are behind the world economic crisis that has hit Greece also."

The composer -- a member of the Greek Communist Party for 60 years -- once was a supporter of Israel, but gradually became a major critic.

In 2003, Theodorakis declared that "Jews are the root of all evil." When the Greek Jewish community reacted strongly to his statement, he apologized.

Oddly -- during his television interview -- Theodorakis said, "I'm an anti-Semite, but I love Jews." Does anyone else find this statement a paradox? Can anyone explain its meaning in the Comments section?

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Head Resigns; Patriarch Lubomyr Headed UGCC for 10 Years

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU) website reports that His Beatitude Patriarch Lubomyr Husar -- the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -- resigned today (February 10, 2010). He leaves his office voluntarily.

The Vatican announced today that the Reverend Ihor Voznyak, the Archbishop of Lviv, will be the administrator of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). His duties will include convening the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC to elect a new major archbishop within the next two months.

His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar was born in 1933 in the city of Lviv.

In January 2001 -- at an extraordinary Synod of Bishops -- he was elected Major Archbishop of the UGCC. Just one month later, he was appointed by Pope John Paul II a cardinal of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vatican Blasts the Idea of "Confessing" by iPhone; Says Rites of Penance Require Personal Dialogue

The Religion Review website reports that the Vatican put its foot down today (February 9, 2011) over the idea of "confessing" by iPhone, after news that United States users can now download an application for the Apple gadget that helps the faithful gain absolution.

"It is essential to understand that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor... It cannot be replaced by a computer application," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.

"I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstances is it possible to 'confess by iPhone,'" he said.

"Confession: A Roman Catholic App," is the first program for the Apple devices created by a South Bend, Indiana-based company called "Little iApps" and sells for 1.99 dollars (1.45 euros) on iTunes.

Netherlands Delineates Muslim Headscarf Rule; May Be Banned Only If Education Is Under Threat

The Dutch News website reports today (February 9, 2011) that religious schools in the Netherlands may not ban Muslim pupils from wearing headscarves simply if it contradicts their core values.

"The freedom of education refers primarily to the process of giving education. Special schools can place demands on the participation in that education, if this is necessary to realize their core values," home affairs minister Piet Hein Donner and education minister Marja van Bijsterveldt said in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Muslim girl at the center of a row over her headscarf at a Catholic school in Volendam has agreed to cover her head in the assembly hall and in school corridors only.

COMMENTARY: Does the Russian Government Overextend Itself for Patriarch Kirill?

The Russian Constitution says that the church is separate from the state in Russia.

Nonetheless, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is treated as a state official, because the Russian government provides him with free protection by the Federal Guard Service.

Moreover, Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church -- the largest religious community in Russia -- has also been granted the use of a car by the Russian government. Strange as it may seem, the state-owned car that the Patriarch has been allowed to use has a flashing blue light that he can also use.

The major reason for Patriarch Kirill having a car with a blue light is to prevent the vehicle he is using from being stuck in Moscow traffic jams. I find this Russian government benefit for Patriarch Kirill to be incredible, since it "crosses the line."

Is it not the purpose of a flashing blue light on a vehicle -- usually allowed only on police and fire vehicles -- to permit that vehicle to rush to an emergency scene in order to save lives?

Is Patriarch Kirill's time so critical that he should not have to drive through traffic jams in Moscow like all other non-emergency vehicles? True, Patriarch Kirill is the head of Russia's largest religious community, but does that justify his use of a car equipped with with a blue light that he is free to use to avoid traffic?

The Jewish, Islamic, Catholic and other heads of religious communities in Russia are not provided by the Russian government with cars or with free protection by Russian security guards.

I can understand the Russian government's reasons for providing Patriarch Kirill with security protection -- especially in view of the fact that several Orthodox priests in Russia have been assassinated during the past two years.

But I believe that allowing Patriarch Kirill to use a state-owned car equipped with a flashing blue light to avoid traffic jams makes a mockery of the real purpose of such a vehicle; namely, to save time by rushing to the scene of a vehicular accident, a fire, or chaos, in an effort to save lives and to minimize the effects of a dangerous occurrence.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Islamic Mobs Attack Three Churches in Indonesia; Sparked by Court's Failure to Execute Blasphemer

Thousands of Muslims attacked three Christian churches, an orphanage, and a health-care clinic in Indonesia today (February 8, 2011), according to the Catholic Culture website.

A Catholic priest was badly beaten as he sought to protect the tabernacle in his church from the marauding crowd.

After damaging the church, the crowd went on to torch two nearby Protestant churches and other Church institutions.

The mob violence in Java was prompted by a court decision sentencing a Christian evangelist to five years in prison -- instead of the death sentence -- after his conviction of blasphemy charges. Richard Bawengan Antonius had been arrested last October, charged with distributing pamphlets that mocked Islam.

Experts: Mubarak's Family Net Worth about $70B; Corruption in His Regime Led to Personal Gain

Middle East experts say Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's family fortune could be as much as $70 billion, the Voice of America News website reports today (February 8, 2011).

They say the Egyptian president has much of his wealth in Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in New York, Los Angeles, and London.

Experts also say Mubarak has several lavish homes across Egypt.

Mubarak's wife, Susan, and their two sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also reported to be billionaires.

Amaney Jamal, a political science professor at Princeton University, said there was "a lot of corruption in his (Mubarak's) regime and a stifling of public resources for personal gain."

Alert Priest Locks Three Teenagers inside Church; Caught Them before They Stole from Offertory Box

The Austrian Times website reports today (February 8, 2011) that a quick-thinking priest locked in three teenagers as they tried to steal money from the church's cash boxes.

Fr. Peter Allmaier was working in his office in the cathedral of Klagenfurt, Carinthia in Austria last Sunday evening when he heard noises coming from the entrance area.

"The boys first claimed they wanted to light a candle for their deceased uncle before confessing their plan to nick coins from the offertory boxes," Fr. Allmaier said today.

Police questioned the would-be thieves who were equipped with a screwdriver, a cooking spoon, and a garlic crusher. The trio face charges for attempted theft.

Church of Scientology Being Investigated by FBI; Secretive Group Accused of Enslaving Members

The Church of Scientology is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of human trafficking, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (February 8, 2011).

The controversial and secretive group -- whose celebrity backers include the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta -- has effectively been accused of enslaving members.

FBI agents have interviewed several defectors across the U.S. about the techniques used by church leaders to control members' lives and track down those who attempt to leave.

The leader of the church, David Miscavige, is accused of repeated violence towards staff and members, although he denies these accusations.

Much of Miscavige's alleged violence is said to have taken place at Gold Base -- a church base headquarters in the California desert, which houses 800 members of Sea Org, its religious order.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chechen Rebel Leader Claims Airport Bombing; Threatens More Terrorism Until Chechnya Is Free

The Associated Press website reports today that a website -- affiliated with Chechen rebels -- released a video today (February 7, 2011) in which insurgent leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for last month's deadly suicide bombing at Russia's largest airport, and threatens more bloodshed if Russia does not allow Chechnya to become an independent state governed by Sharia (Islamic) Law.

The Kavkaz Center website said it received the video late today.

The January 24 suicide attack on Moscow's Domodedovo Airport killed 36 people. Russia said the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya.

"More special operations will be carried out in the future," Umarov says in the video.

Churches Back UN Proposal on Israeli Building; Seek End to Building in West Bank, E. Jerusalem

The Ekklesia website reports today (February 7, 2011) that a coalition of U.S. church bodies is calling on the Obama administration not to block a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution seeking an end to construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Washington-based coalition, Churches for Middle East Peace, said in a recent statement that it wants the Obama administration "not to stand in the way" of the resolution which, the coalition said, "reflects language that the United States has historically used to describe settlement construction activity: illegal, an obstacle to peace, and not legitimate."

The coalition also said it wants the U.S. to "spur both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take decisive new steps toward a comprehensive peace agreement."

Rank Has Its Privileges for Russian Patriarch Kirill; Enjoys Free Security Services, Car with a Blue Light

The church is separate from the state in Russia, the Constitution says. But the Federal Guard Service has its own understanding of what that implies, as it treats Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill as a de-facto state official, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

The agency, which is responsible for the security of senior officials, provides its services to Kirill free of charge.

Kirill -- who presides over the biggest religious community in Russia -- also enjoys the right to use a car with a flashing blue light, which allows his vehicle to avoid being stuck in Moscow traffic jams.

The Orthodox patriarch is the only head of a major religious denomination in Russia with such privileges.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vatican Says Benedict No Longer an Organ Donor; Donor Card Was Voided When He Became Pope

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (February 6, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI -- who possessed an organ donor card since the 1970s when he lived in Germany -- is no longer an organ donor.

The Vatican announced last week that the pope's body belongs to the whole church; therefore, his organ donor card was rendered void when he became pope in 2005, his secretary said.

When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, the Vatican denied that some of his organs would be sent to his native Poland as relics. He is buried at the Vatican.

Four Israelis Nabbed for Theft, Sale of Judaica; Smuggled Judaica to Israel for Sale to Collectors

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today that police in Israel arrested four Israelis suspected of stealing precious Judaica from the main synagogue in Milan, Italy.

The suspects -- who were arrested on February 5, 2011 as part of an international operation -- are accused of smuggling the Judaica to Israel for sale to collectors.

All the stolen objects -- silver Torah crowns, rummonim, finials, and other silver and gold objects worth more than $700,000 -- were recovered.

Police said the four suspects -- two thieves and two who received the goods in Israel -- belonged to a gang that had carried out similar thefts from other European synagogues.

COMMENTARY: Fundamentalists Must Allow Medical Care for Illness

Last week, a Philadelphia judge sentenced a Pennsylvania couple to 10 years of probation, because they were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the pneumonia death of their two-year-old son.

As fundamentalist Protestant Christians, the parents were relying on prayer -- without medical care -- to cure their dying son. The judge also ordered the parents to take their remaining children for medical check-ups in sentencing them, despite his awareness that the parents were opposed to medical care due to their religion.

Some fundamentalist Protestant denominations -- most notably Christian Scientists -- refuse to have medical treatment, because they believe that sickness is the result of fear, ignorance, or sin, and that when that erroneous belief is corrected, the sickness will disappear.

Moreover, they believe that the way to eliminate the false beliefs is to replace them with true understanding of God's goodness. God, then, is the only way that sickness can be eliminated, according to fundamentalist Christians.

To be sure, this religious view shows an unlimited love and respect for God, and His power to heal anyone. Unfortunately -- as indicated in the judge's sentence in the above court case -- healing usually requires human medical care, in addition to praying to God.

The fact is that it would be nice if human beings only had to pray to God to eliminate illness -- there would be no need for doctors -- but that is not the way that illness is healed. Medical care is also needed to allow healing to occur.

True Christians love God and have the greatest respect for Him and His ability to heal anyone of anything. But despite God's omnipotence, they must accept the fact that God does not cause their illness, nor does He cure it. Medical attention may be needed to cure illness -- especially in severe cases of illness.

Indeed, fundamentalists who deny themselves or their children the medical attention they really need in order for healing to occur, are only exacerbating their medical problems -- and this denial may well lead to a mortal ending.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Woman Quits Job After State Passes Burqa Ban; State of Hesse Passed Law Prohibiting Face Veils

A 39-year-old Muslim mother has resigned her job at Frankfurt's city administration, after the state of Hesse imposed Germany's first ban on wearing a burqa at work, the Monsters and Critics website reports today (February 5, 2011).

The woman -- who is of Moroccan origin -- previously wore a headscarf while counseling city residents, but wanted to resume her job after maternity leave with her face completely veiled.

The city objected, saying taxpayers would not accept an official if they could not see her eyes.

Hesse -- the state in which Frankfurt is located -- issued a regulation on February 2, 2011 prohibiting all public-service employees from wearing face veils at work.

Obama Views Christian Faith as a Sustaining Force; Says He Embraces Christ as His Lord and Savior

President Barack Obama said his Christian faith has been a sustaining force for him over the past two years in Washington, when he offered a personal look inside his prayer life at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 3, 2011.

Obama said, "The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray," according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

It was more than 20 years ago that President Obama signed up to work as a community organizer in Chicago. He said that was when his faith in God developed.

"It was through that experience working with pastors and lay people, trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ myself and embrace Him as my Lord and Savior," Obama said.

Delaware Priest Indicted for Theft of Parish Funds; Priest Wrote Checks to Himself for Over $358,000

The Catholic Culture website reports today (February 5, 2011) that a Catholic pastor in Delaware has been indicted on charges of theft and falsifying records with prosecutors charging that he made personal use of parish funds.

Fr. Cornelius Breslin wrote checks to himself amounting to more than $358,000 from the accounts of two parishes in Wilmington, prosecutors say.

The attorney general of Delaware began an investigation of the parish finances, after receiving a report from the Wilmington diocese indicating that something was amiss.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Russian Clergy Can Now Run in Elections; Can Run Only Against Dissenters of Orthodox Church

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports that the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 2, 2011 allowed priests to run in elections in exceptional cases.

The three-day council -- the Church's top administrative body -- gathered in downtown Moscow's magnificent Christ the Savior Cathedral to solve the most urgent issues for the church and society.

Normally, Russian Orthodox priests cannot be nominated to run in elections to any legislative power bodies. This time, however, a document was adopted that contains a reservation.

The reservation says, "exceptions from this rule can only be made when election of hierarchs or clergy to a legislative power body is caused by the necessity to oppose forces, including those schismatically minded or those of other faiths who try to use elections to power bodies to fight the Orthodox Church."

UN Marks First Annual Interfaith Harmony Week; To Promote Dialogue Among the World's Religions

The United Nations has inaugurated the first "World Interfaith Harmony Week" to promote dialogue and civility among the world's religions, according to the Ecumenical News International website.

A resolution passed by the UN General Assembly states that the observances are meant to reaffirm that "mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace."

The resolution establishes the annual events during the first week of February each year.

The three goals of "World Interfaith Harmony Week" are to coordinate efforts of positive work, to use places of worship to foster peace, and to encourage clergy to declare support for peace.

Mohammed Cartoonist Attacker Gets Nine Years; Somalian Man Guilty for Attempting Terrorism

The Copenhagen Post website reports today (February 4, 2011) that the man who broke into Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's home in Denmark with an axe and knife on New Year's Day last year, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for attempting to commit an act of terrorism.

The 29-year-old Somalian, Mohamed Geele, will be deported after he serves his sentence.

A unanimous jury found Geele guilty yesterday (February 3).

In addition to the terrorism charge, he was also found guilty of attempted murder against Westergaard, whose drawings of Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turbin was one of 12 depictions of the prophet published in 2005 in Danish newspapers.

Couple Sentenced for Praying, No Medical Care; Son Died of Pneumonia Due to Lack of Treatment

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (February 4, 2011) that a Protestant fundamentalist Christian couple, who tried relying on prayer to cure their dying toddler, must take their remaining children for medical check-ups as part of their sentence in the boy's death.

A Philadelphia judge also sentenced Herbert and Catherine Schaible to 10 years of probation on February 2.

They were convicted last December of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son, Kent.

Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Prof. in Croatia Apologizes for Teaching Honesty; Says She Was Mistaken in Preparing Pupils for Life

A professor in Croatia has apologized to her current and former pupils for teaching them to be honest and to value knowledge, the Croatian Times website reports today (February 3, 2011).

The 65-year-old mathematics and physics professor, Ankica Bencek, from the capital Zagreb has written a letter admitting she was mistaken in her approach to prepare her pupils for life.

"I apologize in public for teaching you all wrongly. It has taken me a long time to understand that I was wrong," Ankica Bencek has written.

She has ironically written her letter that was published in the national daily newspaper Vecernji List where she said her attitude was obviously mistaken, as she wanted to raise kids by "teaching them to be honest and to treat knowledge as the only value no one can steal from you."

Wilmington Diocese Pays $77M Abuse Settlement; RC Church Paid $2B to US Victims in Past Decade

The Reuters website reports today (February 3, 2011) that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware has agreed to settle 142 claims of sexual abuse by priests for $77 million.

The settlement is roughly $3 million higher than the diocese proposed in mid-January, when it said payouts would likely range from $75,000 to $3 million per victim, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse.

The Wilmington diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2009 due to mounting sex abuse claims.

In the United States, Roman Catholic archdioceses have collectively paid some $2 billion in settlements to victims, since the priest sex scandals first erupted in Boston nearly a decade ago.

Ten Commandments Display Struck Down in Ohio; Federal Judge Rules Court Display Violates Const.

A federal judge ruled yesterday (February 2, 2011) that a Ten Commandments display in an Ohio courtroom violates the Constitution, according to the Christian Post website.

The case dates back to 2000, when James DeWeese, a judge of the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, hung two posters -- one of the Bill of Rights and the other of the Ten Commandments -- in his courtroom.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit.

The court ruled that the poster "sets forth overt religious messages and religious endorsements."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

German Extremists Protest Building of Mosque; Mosque in Cologne Will Be Largest in Germany

Several dozen right-wing extremists protested today (February 2, 2011), as the top beams were added to Germany's largest mosque, under construction in the city of Cologne, according to the Earth Times website.

Ditib mosque federation said the building would not only be "a home for the Muslim community," but also a place to meet non-Muslims, at the topping out ceremony which traditionally marks the moment a building's roof structure is completed.

The mosque -- designed for 1,200 people -- features a 37-meter-high dome and two minarets standing 55 meters tall.

"Interreligious and intercultural dialogue will be revitalized by this mosque," said Bekir Alboga of Ditib. He stressed that non-Muslims were also welcome to attend the sermons, which would be translated into German.

COMMENTARY: Mubarak's Egyptian Presidency Must End Now

The honeymoon is over for Hosni Mubarak, who has been the autocratic president of Egypt for nearly 30 years.

Crowds of hundreds of thousands of angry Egyptians have demonstrated on the streets of Cairo every day since January 25, 2011, demanding that Mubarak resign or be removed as president.

Mubarak's announcement on Egyptian television on February 1 that he will not seek another term as president in September 2011 is too little and too late. The vast majority of Egyptians want Mubarak to relinquish the presidency right now -- not in September.

A relatively large group of Mubarak supporters "came out of the woodwork" on February 2, and there was much bloodshed, as a result of supporters and opponents of Mubarak fighting with rocks, knives, bottles, and other weapons.

Reports indicate that hundreds of these Mubarak "supporters" were actually paid by the Mubarak administration to carry signs supporting Mubarak. This fact was revealed by several Egyptians who also said they were told they would be paid if they agreed to support Mubarak in the demonstrations.

This kind of artificial monetary "support" itself clearly illustrates the corruption that pervades the Mubarak administration.

Mubarak became president of Egypt in October 1981, following the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat. He has become one of the longest-lasting presidents in the world.

Mubarak, a Muslim, has done very little to support and protect the Christian minority living in predominantly Islamic Egypt.

The International Christian Concern (ICC), which exists to serve as a watchdog for the worldwide Christian Church, has ranked Egypt as the third worst nation in the world -- outranked only by Iraq and Iran -- in its recently-published 2011 "Hall of Shame" listing of countries that persecute Christians the most.

The largest Christian Church in Egypt is the Coptic Orthodox Church. Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Church, has for many years called for protection for Egyptian Christians from the current government, but his calls have been ignored for the most part.

On January 1, 2011 during the New Year's Eve mass, a bomb exploded in front of Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, killing 21 worshipers and injuring about 100 others. Several other Christians have been killed in Egypt in recent years, just because of the fact that they are Christians.

Christian residents of Egypt are now hoping to have an Egyptian leader who will provide them with more protection and support.

Today, Egypt -- with its population of 80 million people -- is desperately seeking a significant change in its political climate. Most Egyptians have become tired of decades of repressive dictatorial rule.

Indeed, it is now time for Egypt to move forward with a new democratic president -- a president who will lead Egyptians on a path to the freedom and destiny that they deserve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Jihad Jane" of Penn. Pleads Guilty in Terror Plot; Planned to Kill Cartoonist Who Offended Muslims

A Pennsylvania woman, who called herself "Jihad Jane" online, pleaded guilty today (February 1, 2011) to her role in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims, according to the Salon website.

Colleen LaRose, 47, helped foreign terror suspects with the intention of starting a holy war in Europe and South Asia, prosecutors said.

LaRose has been in custody since October 2009 and faces a possible life sentence under the four charges to which she pleaded guilty: conspiracy to support terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, lying to investigators, and attempted identity theft.

In emails recovered by the FBI, LaRose agreed to marry an online contact from South Asia, so he could move to Europe. The couple then planned to go to Sweden to find and kill the artist, Lars Vilks, who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, the indictment said.

Antiochian Priest in Worcester Accused of Rape; Rev. Abdelahad to Be Arraigned in Court on Feb. 4

The former longtime pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Worcester, Massachusetts has been accused of raping and physically assaulting a 43-year-old woman, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette website reports today (February 1, 2011).

The Very Rev. Charles Michael Abdelahad will be arraigned on February 4, 2011 in Central District Court on a single charge of rape, four counts of assault and battery, and five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

A statement of facts on file in court states that Rev. Abdelahad beat the woman on different occasions dating back to 2007.

His attorney said that his client denies any criminal wrongdoing.

Serb Police Step Up Search for Genocide Suspect; Raid Home of Mladic's Son for Clues to His Locale

Serbian police raided the Belgrade apartment of Ratko Mladic's son yesterday (January 31, 2011), after the chief UN war crimes prosecutor said Serbia is not doing enough to capture the genocide suspect who has been on the run since 1995, according to the Independent (British) website.

War crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said Darko Mladic's flat was searched for "clues pointing to the location where (Ratko) Mladic is hiding."

Ratko Mladic is wanted for war crimes committed in Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

Chief UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz last month reportedly urged those hunting the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander -- last seen in Belgrade in 2006 -- to intensify their efforts, or his next report to the UN Security Council about Serbia's cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal could be negative.