Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teens in Paris Given "Contraceptive Checkbooks;" School Issuance Lets Them Evade Parents, Doctors

The France 24 website reports today (April 30, 2011) that some 160,000 Parisian adolescents can now receive a "contraceptive checkbook" at school, which entitles them to free contraception without having to involve their parents.

The "contraception pass" -- which was launched across the Paris region on April 26 -- has been described as a "checkbook" by local authorities.

The pass allows students -- aged between 15 and 18 -- to access free contraception anonymously without having to visit a family planning center or see their family doctor.

"In a system where young people have to go through their parents to access health care, the right to acquire contraception and decide on abortion autonomously is not being provided for," a leaflet on the project explained.

Muslim Militant Men Murder Minister in Ethiopia; Pregnant Wife Is Also Attacked, Left Unconscious

The Spero Forum website reports today (April 30, 2011) that on April 21 four Muslim men beat an Evangelical pastor to death and assaulted his pregnant wife in Worabe, Ethiopia -- an area that is 97 percent Muslim.

The Muslims lured Abraham Abera from Kale Hiwot Church -- his home and place of ministry -- at 9:30 p.m. They told him that his friend was sick and needed his immediate attention.

Abraham left with the men. They began to beat him with rods. The minister's wife, Birtukan, saw the men attack her husband and ran to intervene, but the Muslims beat her also.

Abraham died on the spot, and his wife -- who sustained a severe head injury -- was left unconscious in the street. She was found and taken to a hospital where she regained consciousness the next day. Fortunately, her unborn baby survived the attack.

Obama Proclaims May 5 as National Day of Prayer; "Be Thankful for Blessings We Take for Granted"

The Christian Post website reports today (April 30, 2011) that President Barack Obama yesterday proclaimed May 5 as the National Day of Prayer, continuing a long tradition in the face of protest.

With ongoing opposition -- from atheists and other nonbelievers -- Obama made sure this year's proclamation did not exclude any group.

"Let us be thankful for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship -- or not to worship -- according to the dictates of their conscience, and let us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted," he stated.

The proclamation comes just two weeks after a federal appeals court overturned a 2010 lower court ruling that found the annual prayer day to be unconstitutional.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wiesenthal Center Honors Pope John Paul II; He Was First Pope to Enhance Relations with Jews

The Simon Wiesanthal Center announced today (April 29, 2011) that it will honor the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II by including highlights of his historic friendship and solidarity with the Jewish people as part of the permanent exhibit of the Center's renowned Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, according to the Religion News website.

Rabbi Marvin Hier -- Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- said, "John Paul II will be remembered for charting a new course in the often-troubled relationship between the Church and the Jewish people."

Rabbi Hier added, "He was the first Pope in the 2,000-year history of the Church to pray in a synagogue, the first to visit a concentration camp, and the first to recognize the state of Israel."

He concluded, "We want these achievements to be part of the permanent installation of the Museum of Tolerance...for future generations."

Mass. Catholic Bishops Blast Sex Ed Website; Call on State to Stop Funding Sex Website for Teens

The Boston Herald website reports today (April 29, 2011) that the four Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are calling on the state to stop funding a sexual education website for teens that uses graphic language to describe sex acts and downplays the physical and emotional risks of abortion.

In a statement released today by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the four bishops urged the state to eliminate a $100,000 grant that funds which is maintained by the independent AIDS Action Committee.

The bishops also asked that the site be taken down.

The state Department of Public Health has defended the site as an important tool for providing accurate sexual health information to teens.

Prince William and Kate Write a Wedding Prayer; Read by Lord Bishop of London During Sermon

The Washington Post website reports today (April 29, 2011) that Prince William and Kate Middleton -- now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- composed a prayer for their wedding at Westminster Abbey.

Their prayer was read by the Right Rev. Richard Charters, Lord Bishop of London, during his sermon today:

"God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

"In the business of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

"Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Arkansas Supreme Court Supports Judge's Ruling; Allowed State Agency to Seize Abused Children

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 29, 2011) that the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a judge in a lower court was right to terminate the parental rights of seven people whose children were seized from the compound of evangelist Tone Alamo in 2008.

A state agency seized the children after it was alleged that some were being abused at Alamo's complex in southwestern Arkansas. Alamo was eventually convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison.

The Supreme Court, in effect, rejected arguments that the judge in the lower court violated the parents' religious freedom.

The justices said the children could have been at risk if they had remained in the compound.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Calif. Girl, 15, Is Expelled from Religious School; Girl Said She Is Bisexual on Her Facebook Page

A 15-year-old California girl says she was expelled from her Christian high school for saying that she is bisexual on her Facebook page, the New York Daily News website reports today (April 28, 2011).

Alexandra Kraft said she was stunned when a teacher at Calvary Christian School in Sacramento ripped into her for talking about a girl crush on the social networking site.

"The teacher said, 'Take your books and leave.' I got kicked out," Kraft said.

In 2009, the state Supreme Court ruled that private and religious schools do not have to follow California's civil rights law.

Syrian Envoy Is Dropped as Royal Wedding Guest; Due to Attacks on Pro-Democracy Rioters in Syria

The Monsters and Critics website reports that Syria's ambassador to Britain was struck off the list of royal wedding guests today (April 28, 2011), following criticism of his presence in view of the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in his native country.

Foreign Secretary William Hague decided -- with the agreement of Buckingham Palace -- that Ambassador Sami Khiyami should not attend the royal wedding.

The ambassador said he found the withdrawal of the invite "a bit embarrassing," but did not believe it would "jeopardize" relations between Syria and Britain.

Asked by BBC if he was disappointed, Khiyami said, "If it wasn't for the importance of the event, I wouldn't have thought of it."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rome Expects One Million People at Beatification; Service Honoring Pope John Paul II Set for May 1

The Catholic Culture website reports today (April 27, 2011) that the city of Rome is anticipating an influx of about one million people for the coming weekend, as pilgrims gather for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Hotels are almost completely booked, despite the fact that most have raised their rates -- in some cases more than double the usual cost -- for the weekend.

The Vatican has emphasized that admission to the ceremony -- which takes place on May 1, 2011 -- will be free.

Nonetheless, police in Rome have uncovered many cases of fraud, with opportunists selling counterfeit tickets to the beatification.

COMMENTARY: America Must Accept Armenian Killings as "Genocide"

While Christians around the world celebrated Easter on April 24, 2011, Armenians on that day also paid tribute to the 96th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Some 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have been killed between 1915 and 1917. Armenians describe the killings as "genocide," but Turkey refuses to recognize these killings as genocide -- and even denies that they occurred.

On April 24, US President Barack Obama issued a statement, saying the mass deaths of Armenians during World War I represent "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century."

Regrettably -- for the third consecutive year -- President Obama did not use the word "genocide" to describe the Armenian deaths. Why? Because President Obama is afraid that doing so will jeopardize United States--Turkish relations.

In fact, last year, a US Congressional panel supported a statement calling the Armenian killings "genocide;" however, consideration of this panel's support never reached the full US House of Representatives for approval, because of the Obama Administration's influence in preventing a vote on it by the full House of Representatives.

Immediately after the US Congressional panel voted to support the genocide statement last year, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Washington, because it was angry about this vote and it wanted to take some "punitive action" against the United States.

Turkey returned its ambassador to the U.S. a few months later -- only after it was reassured by the Obama Administration that it would block the statement approved by the Congressional panel from ever reaching the full House of Representatives. To the present day, the statement on Turkish genocide has not reached the House of Representatives -- and it probably never will.

This kind of threat by Turkey -- and the cowardly response to it by the United States -- is not the kind of government America's forefathers envisioned when they established America as an independent democratic nation.

America must not allow itself to be intimidated by Turkey -- or any other nation for that matter -- especially when doing so is in violation of the democratic ideals that have made the United States the great country that it is today.

For America to relinquish its democratic principles because of a threat from a foreign nation clearly conveys that America has lost its democratic spirit in taking a position on what it believes is the proper thing to do.

Filaret Seeks Single Orthodox Church in Ukraine; Kiev Patriarch Says Independent Church Inevitable

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (April 27, 2011) that Patriarch Filaret -- head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) -- said in a TV interview on Easter that the unification of all Ukrainian Orthodox Churches into a single independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church is inevitable.

Patriarch Filaret said, "We are striving to create a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine. I am sure that there will be such a church in Ukraine. Sooner or later, we will unite and together we shall celebrate the risen Christ, but we shall celebrate Him in an independent church, in a local one, and not in the Russian Church."

The UOC-KP Patriarch added, "There will be the union under a single local Orthodox Church."

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Half of Young Austrians Never Attend Church; Poll Shows 20 Percent Attend on a Regular Basis

The Austrian Times website reports today (April 26, 2011) that -- according to a new poll -- one in two young Austrians never goes to church.

Public opinion agency Karmasin -- which questioned 500 Austrians for the study -- found that 50 percent of Austrians aged 30 and younger never attend Catholic masses.

The research also shows that 35 percent of all Austrians never go to church, while one in five said they were attending masses "on a regular basis."

Only 65 percent of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Catholics -- down from 89 percent in 1961.

Vatican to Use Pope John Paul's Blood for Relic; Vial of His Blood to Be Relic in Church in Poland

The Voice of America News website reports today (April 26, 2011) that the Vatican has decided that blood taken from Pope John Paul II -- shortly before his death -- will be used in the official relic for veneration during his beatification on May 1.

In a statement yesterday, the Vatican said that several vials of blood -- that were never used -- had been drawn for a possible transfusion shortly before the pope's death on April 2, 2005.

After the beatification, a vial of Pope John Paul's blood will be installed as a relic in a church in Krakow in the pope's native Poland.

Beatification is the last major step before possible sainthood.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Conn. Church Holds Easter Services in a Bar; Pastor: Venue Allows for a Spirit of Community

The CNN website reports today that a New Haven, Connecticut church held a special Easter Sunday service yesterday at a rather unique venue -- Toad's Place, a well-known local bar.

The Frontline City Church rocked its first service in New Haven, bringing together folks from every walk of life.

"The Bible never talks about what the building should look like, so we're open to meet everywhere and anywhere for God's glory," said Frontline City Church Lead Pastor Justin Kendrick.

Kendrick admits the approach is new and non-traditional, but the idea -- and the intent -- is one of the oldest sentiments there is. Come one, come all, in a spirit of community.

Abp. of Canterbury Delivers Sermon on Happiness; Says Joy Comes from Relationships, Environment

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 25, 2011) that the Archbishop of Canterbury -- delivering his Easter Sermon at Canterbury Cathedral yesterday -- spoke of the joy which could be achieved by having an outward focus, fostering relationships with others and the world around them.

Dr. Rowan Williams said: "Now it's certainly a good thing that people have publicly acknowledged that there is more to life than the level of our Gross National Product, that we're just beginning to say out loud that corporate prosperity divorced from personal and communal fulfillment or stability is an empty thing."

He added, "Happiness comes from outside, from relationships, environment, the unexpected stimulus of beauty -- but not from any program that we can identify."

Armenia Marks 96th Anniv.of Ottoman Killings; Obama Statement Fails to Use Word "Genocide"

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports today (April 25, 2011) that Armenia yesterday marked the 96th anniversary since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. Armenia says up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917, and describes the killings as "genocide" by Turkey -- which Turkey refuses to acknowledge.

In a written statement yesterday (April 24, 2011) -- marking the anniversary of the Armenian killings -- US President Barack Obama said the mass deaths represent "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century."

But for the third straight year, Obama did not use the word "genocide" to describe the deaths.

Last year, a US Congressional panel gave its support to a statement calling the event "genocide." This angered Turkey and caused it to recall its ambassador from Washington, and to send him back only after the Obama Adminsitration used its influence to prevent the statement from ever reaching the full House of Representatives for a discussion and vote.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bomb Explodes Near Baghdad Church on Easter; Four Policemen and Three Bystanders Wounded

The Associated Press website reports that at least seven people were injured when a bomb outside the entrance of a Baghdad church exploded on Easter Sunday.

The blast took place just yards from the Sacred Heart Church in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood. Shrapnel from the bomb struck the outside of the building and at least four of the church's windows were shattered.

The church -- like many Baghdad houses of worship -- is surrounded by blast walls to protect it from such attacks.

An official -- who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to brief the media -- said no parishioners were inside and services had not been held in the building.

Four policemen and three civilian bystanders were wounded by the blast, said the official.

Chinese Police Detain Christians on Easter; Lead Away People Trying to Hold Services in Beijing

The Reuters website reports today (April 24, 2011) that Chinese police detained scores of Christians on Sunday who were trying to converge at the site of a banned Easter service.

While Easter services for tens of millions of Christians across China mostly went ahead unhindered, police led away people trying to gather in northwest Beijing, where the Shouwang Church had called for outdoor services after it was evicted from its rented premises during a clampdown on dissent.

Leaders of the Shouwang Church have said they have no political agenda and want only to find a permanent place to worship for its 1,000 or so members, who refuse to accept official demands that churches come under the direct oversight of Communist Party authorities.

In Communist China, only Christian Churches that have registered with the Chinese government -- and have government approval to celebrate services -- are allowed to exist.

COMMENTARY: Christ's Resurrection Is the Most Significant Event in History

Christos Anesti! Christ has risen!

Aleethos Anesti! Truly He has risen!

These words -- which have been said by millions of Christians on Easter for nearly 2,000 years -- depict the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after He was crucified on Good Friday.

Today we celebrate Easter -- or Pascha as it is called in Greek -- and the resurrection of Christ. Christ's resurrection can be viewed as the most critical element of the Christian faith and theology.

Christ rose from the dead and trampled down death by death, in effect, saving all Christians after they die.

Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in the entire history of mankind. It is even more significant than any victory in any war, or any conquest -- even Alexander the Great's conquest of all the known world.

How fortunate Christians are to be saved by our Savior. Yes, Christians have celebrated Easter and Christ's resurrection for nearly 2,000 years -- and they will continue to do so ad infinitum.

Christos Anesti! Christ has risen! Glorify Him!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Germany Expels Visiting Homophobic Imam; Said Death Penalty Must Be Used on Homosexuals

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (April 23, 2011) that authorities in Germany have ordered Abu Ameena Bila Philips -- a hardline Islamic preacher from Jamaica who defends the death penalty for homosexuality -- to leave the country and never return.

The officials instructed the 60-year-old Islam convert to leave Germany within three days, claiming his professed beliefs infringed on federal laws.

German law allows for the expulsion of visitors who "incite hatred against parts of the population" or advocate the use of violence against them.

In a sermon, Philips defended the death penalty as justified punishment for proven homosexual acts.

Terry Jones Is Jailed in Mich. for Planned Protest; Jury Decided His Protest Would Lead to Violence

The Christian Post website reports today (April 23, 2011) that Terry Jones -- infamous for burning the Quran in Florida -- was jailed yesterday, thus preventing him from protesting in front of a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan as he had planned.

He and fellow preacher Wayne Sapp had refused to pay a $1 peace bond set by Judge Mark Somers, after a jury determined that his planned Good Friday protest would lead to violence.

The two were released hours later after paying the dollar.

Jones' demonstration was scheduled to take place yesterday evening in front of what he says is America's largest mosque -- the Islamic Center of America. He had announced that he -- along with a handful of others -- would be protesting against "jihad, sharia, and state radicalization of Moslems in America."

Pope Answers Questions on TV for Good Friday; Conducts Unprecedented Rel. Q and A TV Program

Pope Benedict XVI told a 7-year-old Japanese girl -- frightened by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in her homeland -- that suffering is not in vain, as he conducted an unprecedented Q and A on television yesterday to mark Good Friday, according to the Cybercast News Service website.

Benedict -- in a prerecorded appearance on Italian state television -- replied to some of a few thousand questions submitted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Good Friday is the solemn day when Christians reflect on the suffering and crucifixion of Christ.

In response to the Japanese girl's question on suffering, Benedict said, "We do not have the answers, but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent." He added, "Even if we are still sad, God is by our side."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Many Anglicans Will Become Catholic This Easter; Over 60 Former Anglican Clergy Are Now Catholic

The National Catholic Register website reports today (April 22, 2011) that the first personal ordinariate -- created for former Anglicans who decided to enter the Catholic Church -- will reach almost 1,000 by the end of the Easter vigil. The count includes more than 60 former Anglican clergy.

The personal ordinariate was established under Pope Benedict XVI's Novemeber 2009 apostolic constitution.

It allows the group reception of former Anglicans into the Catholic Church, while permitting them to retain much of their distinctive patrimony -- including married priests -- as well as their liturgical practices.

Msgr. Keith Newton -- who heads the ordinariate -- says it is now growing to between 900 and 1,000 members.

Unprecedented Documentary of Mt. Athos on TV; Mt. Athos Segment to Be on "60 Minutes" April 24

"The Monks of Mount Athos" will be featured on the CBS TV news program "60 Minutes" on Pascha Sunday (April 24, 2011) at 7 p.m. EST, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

The over 1,000-year-old sanctuary of Orthodox Christian monasticism will recount "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon's journey to a remote peninsula in Northeastern Greece that millions of Orthodox Christians consider the most sacred place on earth, Mount Athos.

With the blessing of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Simon and the "60 Minutes" team were given unprecedented access to document monastic life on the sequestered Holy Mountain.

The result is a portrayal of a place rarely seen, where women are not allowed, and where prayer has been offered by holy men everyday -- with no interruption -- for more than a thousand years.

The documentary will also be broadcast over the Internet on the "60 Minutes" website:

Texas Gov. Perry Declares Prayer Days for Rain; Wildfires Threaten Thousands of Homes in Texas

The Christian Post website reports today (April 22, 2011) that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has declared a statewide three-day period of prayer for rain, as a major wildfire threatens thousands of homes and consumes over a million acres of land following a severe drought.

" hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas," Perry wrote in a public letter yesterday.

"I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on those days for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities, and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life," Perry's letter said.

Thousands of firefighters throughout Texas -- as well as the Texas National Guard -- are fighting the blazes, and two firefighters have died in the line of duty. More than 1,800 firefighters from 36 other states are assisting Texas in extinguishing the fires.

Perry mentioned that Texas -- in its 175-year history -- has been "strengthened, assured, and lifted up through prayer."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Quarter Million Visit Jerusalem This Week; Passover, Holy Week Attract People Worldwide

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (April 21, 2011) that Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover are in motion this week in Jerusalem, and the Israel Ministry of Tourism expects a quarter million visitors for the timeless iconic events observed in the Old City.

Because Jesus was a Jew, His Last Supper was a Passover meal -- an event at which Jews have retold God's delivery of them from Egyptian slavery into the Promised Land.

Holy Week -- the commemoration of events leading to the Crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection on Easter Sunday -- coincides with Jewish Passover.

The procession ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where -- on Saturday at midnight -- Eastern Orthodox Christians believe a flame appears in the tomb of Jesus, and is caught by both a Greek patriarch and an Armenian priest.

They share the flame with worshipers who have candles.

Five Bombs Found Near Indonesian Church; Militants Planned to Detonate Them Good Friday

The Associated Press website reports that terror suspects arrested today (April 21, 2011) led police to five massive bombs buried beneath a gas pipeline near a church just outside of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

Djoko Suyanto, a security minister, said he believed the Islamic militants had been plotting an attack ahead of Easter celebrations. The U.S. embassy urged Americans to be vigilant.

The explosives -- safely defused at the scene -- had been set to detonate by cell phone at around 9 a.m. Friday.

"The army and police are under high alert," Suyanto told reporters, adding that troops would be deployed at churches and other strategic locations. "We want to guarantee safety," he said.

In recent months, small bands of militants in Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim nation -- have been trying to turn the secular nation of 237 million into an Islamic state. This effort by Muslim extremists has resulted in the destruction of several Christian churches in Indonesia.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

COMMENTARY: Protests Must Not Be Allowed During Royal Wedding

About two billion people -- or one-third of the world's population -- is expected to watch the royal wedding in London of Prince William and Kate Middleton online or on television next week on April 29. More than a million other people are expected to line the streets of London to see the the royal couple.

Indeed, this is a joyous occasion for the United Kingdom and the world.

Unfortunately, an extremist Muslim group called MAC -- or Muslims Against Crusades -- has threatened to turn this wedding day into what it calls a "nightmare." Why? MAC has no specific reason for this threat.

MAC requested to protest outside Westminster Abbey during the royal wedding, but its request was rejected by British officials.

Consequently, MAC has decided to turn the wedding day into a "nightmare."

More than 5,000 British police officers will be deployed during the royal wedding to ensure that it remains a peaceful celebration.

MAC -- or any other group or individual who disturbs the peace during this wedding ceremony -- must be arrested by police. Moreover, they should receive long-term prison sentences for their misbehavior.

The fact is that it is inappropriate for any group or individual to protest during the royal wedding, since it should be a joyous and spiritual occasion. Indeed, police must have a zero tolerance for any protester.

Palestinian State May Be Recognized in the Fall; Would Have 1967 Borders, E. Jerusalem as Capital

The Mideast quartet -- Russia, the US, the EU, and the UN -- may acknowledge a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 war borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in autumn this year, the Voice of Russia website reports today (April 20, 2011).

The UN General Assembly may consider the issue in September, according to foreign diplomatic sources.

Israel views these plans as treachery and blackmail, and awaits US support, says Israeli political analyst Alexander Eterman.

"The UN may acknowledge a Palestinian state but it cannot make it a member. All new members have to be approved by the UN Security Council, where the US has veto rights," Eterman said.

EOC Criticizes Dutch Toy Shop for Discrimination; Fired Girl Who Refused to Remove Her Headscarf

The Dutch News website reports today (April 20, 2011) that a toy shop in Almelo, Holland has been criticized by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) for refusing to give any more work to a shop assistant who wears an Islamic headscarf.

The commission said the shop is discriminating against the teenager on religious grounds.

The girl had worked at the shop wearing a headscarf, but was asked to remove it after a customer refused to be served by her.

The shop says the girl was asked -- not ordered -- to remove the scarf, but was taken off the roster because of the "angry and intimidating" way she reacted.

The commission's findings are not binding.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Radical Muslims Plan Royal Wedding Protest; Anti-Islam Group Will Protest Against Muslims

London police said today (April 19, 2011) that they had banned a radical Muslim group from holding a protest outside the church where Britain's Prince William will marry Kate Middleton on April 29, according to the Reuters website.

Talks are ongoing about allowing Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) -- whose members include some of Britain's best-known Muslim extremists -- to stage some form of demonstration in the capital.

Meanwhile, the English Defense League (EDL) -- a right-wing anti-Islamist group whose past protests included violence -- has also applied to stage a demonstration, should MAC get the go-ahead.

London Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said, "So far we've had two requests from groups wishing to protest, and we're currently engaging with them to decide whether we think that's appropriate."

Reds Pitcher Mike Leake Booked for Shoplifting; Accused of Stealing Six Rag T-Shirts from Macy's

The Yahoo News Network website reports today (April 19, 2011) that Cincinnati Reds pitching ace Mike Leake -- who makes $425,000 a year and received a $2.3 million signing bonus after being drafted from Arizona State University in 2009 -- was arrested and booked yesterday afternoon for allegedly stealing $59.88 worth of merchandise from Macy's department store in downtown Cincinnati.

The second-year right-hander is accused of stealing six American Rag T-shirts from the store, removing the security tags, and leaving the store without paying for them.

Police said the incident was caught on security cameras.

If convicted of this misdemeanor, Leake stands to spend up to 180 days in jail.

Armenian Genocide Day Falls on Easter Sunday; WCC: Coincidence Reflects Power of Resurrection

For Armenians around the world, Easter Sunday on April 24, 2011 is also Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the Ekklesia website reports today (April 19, 2011).

It is the first time since 1915 -- when the Remembrance Day began -- that April 24 falls on Easter Sunday in the Armenian church calendar.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, said, "It is truly a meaningful coincidence, as the existence of the Armenian nation and people itself is a special sign of the power of the resurrection in a world of death."

Some one and one-half million Armenians are believed to have been killed due to their Christian religion during World War I -- between 1914 and 1918 -- by Turks. Turkey -- to this very day -- denies that the Armenian Genocide ever occurred.

Turkey's denial of the Armenian Genocide reminds me of a clever pun: "Denial is not a river in Egypt."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pope In Palm Sun. Homily: Jesus Lifts Us to God; Says Technology Has Caused Greater Evil in Men

The Catholic Culture website reports today (April 18, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily -- while celebrating Mass on Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square -- that Jesus wants to lift every human being up to heaven.

"And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful," the Pope said.

That gravitational force is the temptation to sin, he explained, and we have not escaped it. On the contrary, advances in technology have made men capable to even greater evil.

The Pope added, "Our limitations have also remained: We need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months."

Scientist Claims Last Supper Was a Day Earlier; Says Findings Could Mean a Fixed Date for Easter

Christians have long celebrated Jesus Christ's Last Supper on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, but new research -- just released today (April 18, 2011) -- claims to show it took place on the Wednesday before the crucifixion, the Agence France Presse website reports.

Prof. Colin Humphreys -- a scientist at the University of Cambridge in England -- asserts his findings strengthen the case for finally introducing a fixed date for Easter.

In Humphreys' theory, Jesus went by an old-fashioned Jewish calendar, rather than the official lunar calendar which is still in use today. It would follow that Jesus' arrest, interrogation, and separate trials did not take place in the space of one night, but in fact occurred over a longer period.

Humphreys believes a date could therefore be ascribed to Easter in our modern solar calendar, and working on the basis that the crucifixion took place on April 3, Easter Day would be on April 5.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

COMMENTARY: Court Is Correct in Maintaining National Day of Prayer

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on April 14, 2011 that the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- a group of atheists and agnostics -- did not have any basis for filing a lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer, because it has not caused the FFRF any injury.

The Court said that the FFRF was complaining because it was observing conduct with which it disagreed, and that does not make a federal case.

Moreover, the Court rejected arguments from the FFRF that the case was legitimate, because members felt excluded by the day. The fact is that no one is excluded from taking part in the National Day of Prayer.

The actual Day of Prayer is set by an annual proclamation from the president, but many of the activities arranged for Christians and their churches are handled by a private organization set up to promote the day.

Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952, and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May for its celebration.

Indeed, the Court was correct in its ruling, because nobody is forced to participate -- or prevented from participating -- in the National Day of Prayer.

Danish Drawer of Mohammed Faces Blasphemy; Scheduled for Trial in Amman, Jordan on April 25

The Copenhagen Post website reports today (April 17, 2011) that a court trial about Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's satirical drawing of the prophet Mohammed has been scheduled for April 25 in the Jordan capital of Amman.

A copy of the summons from 2008 shows that Westergaard is being charged with "crimes of blasphemy" with his cartoon where Mohammed is drawn with a bomb in his turban.

Zakarya Sheikh -- spokesman for a group of local media who have sued Westergaard -- said, "These judicial steps should serve to prevent future attempts to insult Islam and stir up racial hatred towards Muslims across the world."

The Jordanian government has condemned the drawings and warned that they could worsen relations between Denmark and Jordan.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Survey: Many Australian Catholic Priests Unhappy; Consider Their Bishops Too Subservient to Rome

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (April 16, 2011) that many of Australia's 3,000 active and retired Catholic priests are critical of their bishops, according to a survey released this week.

Dr. John O'Carroll and colleague Chris McGillion of Charles Sturt University in Bathurst sent the survey to 1550 active and 160 retired priests, and 542 -- or about 32 percent -- responded.

Many priests say they are overworked, poorly managed, and feel constrained in their religious vocation by bureaucracy and parish administration.

Nearly half of the surveyed priests consider their bishops as "an exclusive group and one far too subservient to Rome."

Rabbi Sues DC Board Over Election on Passover; Wants Board to Change Its April 26 Voting Date

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (April 16, 2011) that a rabbi is suing the District of Columbia Board of Elections for running an election on the last day of Passover.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom says in his lawsuit that efforts by the board to expand early voting opportunities -- and to provide absentee ballots -- for observant Jewish voters in a special election for an at-large council member and two Board of Education members are inadequate.

Herzfeld wants the election board to change the April 26 date or to extend voting by two hours, to 10 p.m., which the election board refuses to do.

The Board of Elections has sent absentee ballots and information on early voting to Jewish congregations and groups, in an effort to make it easier for Jews to vote on the last day of Passover.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Galileo Honored by Vatican on 400th Anniversary; Catholic Church Had Denounced Galileo in 1611

Four hundred years after Galileo Galilei first demonstrated his telescope to scholars on a Roman hilltop, the astronomer -- condemned by the Catholic Church -- was celebrated on the same spot with a multimedia art exhibit that included an installation from the Vatican.

According to the USA Today website, the event took place last night (April 14, 2011) at the American Academy in Rome -- a research center for the arts and humanities whose gardens lie on the exact spot where, on April 14, 1611, Galileo showed off his telescope for the first time to the most important scholars of his time.

Galileo made the first complete astronomical telescope, and used it to gather evidence that the Earth revolved around the sun.

The Catholic Church -- at that time -- denounced Galileo's theory as dangerous to the faith, because it considered the Earth to be the center of the universe.

La. Gov. Backs Ten Commandments Monument; Would Be Built and Paid for by Private Groups

A bill to place a Ten Commandments monument at Louisiana's Capital in Baton Rouge has received backing from Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 15, 2011).

"We support the bill and the Ten Commandments," a spokesman for the Louisiana governor said.

Democratic state Rep. Patrick Williams -- who offered the proposal -- says he wants to promote the historical value of the commandments.

According to the proposed measure, the monument would not be paid for by the state, and private groups would design and build it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Court Dismisses Suit Over National Day of Prayer; Rules Atheist Group Not Caused Harm by Prayer

The Associated Press website reports that a federal appeals court today (April 14, 2011) threw out a ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, and ordered that a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's right to proclaim the day be dismissed.

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation -- a group of atheists and agnostics that filed the lawsuit -- did not have standing to sue because while they disagree with the president's proclamation, it has not caused them any harm.

The American Center for Law and Justice -- which represented 67 members of Congress in defense of the prayer day -- praised the ruling. "This decision represents a victory for our nation's heritage and history," the group's attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952, and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.

COMMENTARY: Holocaust Group in Austria Should Ignore Cakes with Nazi Symbols

Last week, a Holocaust awareness group -- called the Mauthausen Committee -- filed a criminal complaint against a pastry maker who owns a bakery in a suburb of Vienna, Austria.

The bakery sells cakes that are decorated with swastikas and other Nazi-era symbols, including an arm of a child raised in a Hitler salute.

The owner of the bakery, Manfred Klaschka, defended his Nazi symbols on cakes, saying, "If it's requested, it's made."

These cakes with Nazi symbols are not cheap -- they sell for an average of $128 apiece -- and are made specifically for people who order them.

Although the cakes themselves are not on display in the bakery window, a catalogue containing photographs of the designs is available for customers to see.

This appears to be a weak case of anti-Semitism for the Holocaust group to prove. The fact is that the baker is only baking cakes for customers who order them, in order to earn a living. The baker is not a Nazi.

The Holocaust group needs to ignore this comedic situation -- the cakes are only made with various symbols in order to entertain their buyers -- and concentrate its efforts on more serious issues -- issues provoked by real anti-Semitic current-day Nazi thugs.

Activists Want Good Friday to Be National Holiday; Christians to Rally in Washington, DC on April 22

The Ethics Daily website reports today (April 14, 2011) that a band of Christians is planning a rally in Washington, DC, in a bid to make Good Friday a national holiday.

Organizer Sharon Jones -- a New York-based missionary -- recalled growing up observing the holiday in her native Britain.

She has scheduled a rally on the National Mall on April 22, which is Good Friday. She hopes thousands will attend and watch a film about Jesus during the midday event.

Jones said 11 states and more than 135 countries observe Good Friday as an official holiday. She is circulating an online petition to Congress for a U.S. observance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Suspects Confess to Belarus Subway Bombing; Blast in Minsk Killed 12, Wounded 200 on April 11

The Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty website reports today (April 13, 2011) that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said two suspects have confessed to staging a deadly explosion at a subway station in Minsk, Belarus.

Prosecutors announced the detention of two Belarusian men in connection with the blast in the capital of Belarus, which killed 12 people and wounded some 200 others on April 11, 2011.

One of the two men was caught on a surveillance camera leaving a bag in the October Square subway station shortly before the remote control explosion.

Lukashenka said the pair had also confessed to carrying out a previous attack at an open-air concert in Minsk in 2008, and another in a cafe in Vitebsk in 2005. Both incidents injured dozens, but caused no deaths.

PA Court OKs "I Love Boobies" Bracelet in School; ACLU Argued Ban Violated Students' Free Speech

On April 12, 2011 federal judge Mary McLaughlin in the US District Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ruled that the ban imposed by middle school administrators on the rubber wristband did not have case law support allowing school officials to restrict students' speech when it is considered lewd or disruptive.

Consequently, 13-year-old Kayla Martinez wore her "I Love Boobies" bracelet back to school today (April 13), according to the All Voices website.

"The bracelets are intended to be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health," McLaughlin wrote in her opinion.

Along with Martinez, student Brianna Hawk, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, sued in November 2010, after the pair were threatened with school suspension for refusing to take their bracelets off at school. The ACLU argued that the district's ban violated the students' First Amendment right to free speech.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anti-Semitic Incidents Are Increasing in Canada; Bullying Jews on Internet Is a Threat to Society

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports today (April 12, 2011) that anti-Semitism in Canada is on the rise -- and much of it now appears on the Internet.

In total, 1,306 anti-Jewish incidents were reported to the B'nai Brith human rights group in 2010 -- a 3.3 percent increase over the previous year. B'nai Brith tallied 965 cases of harassment, 317 incidents of vandalism, and 24 cases of violence.

"Incidents were reported across Canada in synagogues, schools, playgrounds, on campus, at street rallies, sporting events, workplaces, even reaching people's own homes," said Frank Dimant, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, at the release yesterday of the group's annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents.

Dimant said the Internet has played a key role in the rise of anti-Semitic incidents. "New technologies are giving a modern twist to age-old anti-Jewish messaging. Cyber-bullying -- in this case anti-Semitic -- is just one of the newest threats to society," Dimant said.

Trump: "I Believe in God. I Am a Christian;" Is Considering Running for US President in 2012

Donald Trump -- the Manhattan business billionaire -- told the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) in an interview to be broadcast today (April 12, 2011) that he is considering running for US president as a Republican in 2012, and that he would announce his intent this June.

"I believe in God. I am a Christian. I think The Bible is THE book. It is the thing," Trump told CBN's David Brody.

"I'm a Protestant. I'm a Presbyterian. And you know I've had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion," Trump said.

In past TV appearances, Trump has taken conservative positions on social issues, stating that he is against gay marriage and civil unions, and is pro-life.

Monday, April 11, 2011

France Arrests Muslim Women Wearing the Niqab; Ban on Full-Face Covering Went Into Effect Today

Police in France -- home to Europe's largest Muslim population -- arrested two protesters wearing niqab veils today (April 11, 2011), as a ban on full-face coverings went into effect, according to the Times of India website.

The women -- part of a demonstration that erupted in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris -- were detained for taking part in an unauthorized protest rather than for wearing their veils.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the veil ban would be enforced, in the name of "secularism and equality between men and women -- two principles upon which we can not compromise."

Police Arrest More Than 200 Christians in China; Govt. Must Approve All Churches for Worshiping

The Examiner website reports today (April 11, 2011) that police in Beijing, China arrested more than 200 Christians yesterday, as they were gathering to worship. Previously, they had been evicted from the church gathering place.

Christians can only attend churches that are explicitly approved by the Chinese government, which can also mean that the government has control over the content of the services.

All other meetings -- including Bible study groups and unregistered churches -- are illegal in China.

The government police routinely find these underground churches and home-based Bible study groups and arrest those involved. Punishment can result in years of imprisonment.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

COMMENTARY: US Needs to Address Its "Terry Jones Problem"

On April 9, 2011, a 24-year-old Muslim man, Akhtar Hussain, tore the Bible apart outside a Catholic Church in Pakistan, in order to avenge extremist American pastor Terry Jones' desecration of the Koran outside his parish in Florida last month.

Hussain was arrested for this spiteful sacrilegious act and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Jones was not arrested for burning the Koran last month. Apparently, US prosecutors have no plans of arresting him for this hateful action.

It is time for the US government to establish a law similar to Pakistan's, which would result in a long prison term for anyone who desecrates a Koran or other holy book in America. Such a law would discourage this kind of hateful activity in the US.

Also, eight United Nations staff members were killed in Afghanistan last week, in what the killers say was a retaliation for Jones' desecration of the Koran. Jones, on the other hand, said he was not responsible for these murders, which he claimed were Islamic terrorist acts.

Although Jones claims that he was not responsible for these murders, they probably never would have occurred, if he had not desecrated the Koran. Nor would the desecration of the Bible in Pakistan have occurred.

These two retaliatory incidents may be just the beginning of Islamic terrorist acts. More Islamic violence against Christians may ensue in the near future, due to the anger that Jones' action has provoked in Muslims.

Jones -- bold, arrogant, and heartless that he is -- has already announced that he plans to lead a new anti-Islam rally on April 22 in Dearborn, Michigan, outside the largest mosque in the United States.

The United States government needs to prevent this rally from occurring -- by denying Jones a permit to hold it -- because of the violence that may result from it. If it is allowed to take place, such a rally will most likely lead to injuries -- perhaps even death -- of innocent people.

It is difficult to accept the fact that Jones is a Christian pastor, because of his obsessive hatred of Muslims and the Koran. Christ's teachings make it very clear that human beings must love their brothers, including those of a different faith.

The fact is that Jones enjoys being the center of attention. His self-worship led to his removal as a pastor of a church in Cologne, Germany -- a position he held before his current position as pastor at a church in Gainesville, Florida.

Consequently, Jones' egoism has resulted in his defiance of one of Christ's most important attributes; namely, to have a genuine love for one's fellow man -- even for one's enemy.

Indeed, his shameless defiance of Christ's teachings -- which can be compared to Judas' betrayal of Christ -- may well lead to Jones' road to ruin.

Pope: Some Christians Doubt Resurrection; Emphasizes Christ Breaks Down Wall of Death

"Christ breaks down the wall of death, in Him dwells all the fullness of God, that is life, eternal life," said Pope Benedict XVI today (April 10, 2011) before the Angelus in St. Peter's Square, during his reflections on the Sunday Gospel which deals with the resurrection of Lazarus.

According to the Asia News website, Pope Benedict recalled that for a long time in the Jewish world there was no "idea of a personal resurrection from the dead, which appears only towards the end of the Old Testament, and still at the time of Jesus not welcomed by all Jews."

The Pope added, "even among Christians, the belief in resurrection and eternal life is not infrequently accompanied by many doubts, much confusion because it is still a reality that transcends the limits of our reason, and requires an act of faith."

Pope Benedict emphasized that Christ breaks down the wall of death, and in Him dwells all the fullness of God, that is eternal life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prayers Issued for Royal Couple Before Wedding; April 29 Wedding Date Made a National Holiday

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales have released new prayers ahead of the royal wedding that will occur at Westminster Abbey this month, the Christian Today website reports today (April 9, 2011).

The Church of England's prayer asks God to "look in favor" on the royal couple and "all who are made one in marriage." It also asks God to "deepen their love" and help them to keep their vows to each other.

The Catholic prayer asks for God's blessing upon Prince William and Miss Middleton and to give them strength to serve God, the country, and the Commonwealth "with integrity and faithfulness."

A million people are expected to travel to London for the royal wedding on April 29, which has been made a national holiday in the United Kingdom.

Pakistani Muslim Tears Bible Apart Near Church; He Wanted to "Avenge" Koran Burning in Florida

The Christian Post website reports today (April 9, 2011) that a 24-year-old Muslim man desecrated the Bible at the gates of Saint Anthony's Catholic Church in Lahore, Pakistan yesterday, in order to "avenge" extremist American pastor Terry Jones' desecration of the Koran in Florida last month.

Police arrested the man -- identified as Akhtar Hussain -- a resident of the neighboring district of Kasur for tearing the Bible apart. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, if convicted of "outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of Pakistan."

Senior police official Umer Saeed said Hussain told police investigators that he was "taking revenge" from the Christians for setting the Koran on fire.

Christian leaders and civil society activists condemned the incident, and urged tolerance, respect, and acceptance for people belonging to all faiths.

Friday, April 8, 2011

TV Priest Takes Leave After Affair with Cousin; Rev. Manning Had an Affair with Nancy Kotowski

The Huffington Post website reports today (April 8, 2011) that Rev. Michael Manning -- the famous Catholic TV priest -- has taken a leave of absence, after he admitted to having a sexual affair with his second cousin.

According to the San Bernadino Sun -- which first reported the relationship -- Manning, 70, will be leaving Wordnet, the worldwide television ministry he founded in 1978, to reflect on his relationship with Monterey (California) Schools Superintendent Nancy Kotowski.

Manning -- who claims that the sexual relationship ended over two years ago -- said he has sought and received forgiveness from God. "That's the neat thing with Jesus. There can be the chance of starting again," Manning said.

He admitted to the affair, after the San Bernadino Sun obtained a series of correspondence between the two lovers.

Kotowski, 59, said she believes that she and the priest are "soul mates" and she hopes their story will inspire discussion about the role of celibacy within the Catholic Church.

Court OKs UNC Professor's Religious Free Speech; Was Denied Promotion Due to Rel. Commentary

The Christian Post website reports today (April 8, 2011) that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a North Carolina university's decision to deny a professor a promotion based on religious and political commentary -- inspired by his conversion to Christianity from atheism -- is unconstitutional.

A three-member panel ruled that University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Mike Adams' political activities constituted protected, private speech and that university officials could be held personally liable for damages, should Adams ultimately prevail in the case.

The court said in its opinion, "No individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Group Wants Bakery Charged for Its Nazi Themes; Cakes Have Swastikas, Arm Showing Hitler Salute

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (April 7, 2011) that a Holocaust awareness group is urging government officials in Austria to prosecute the owner of an Austrian pastry shop that sells cakes decorated with Nazi themes.

The bakery -- located in the village of Maria Enzersdorf near Vienna -- features cakes that are decorated with swastikas and other Nazi era symbols, including an arm raised in a Hitler salute, the Mauthausen Committee said.

Manfred Klaschka -- the owner of the bakery -- said "If it's requested, it's made."

Austrian law bans the glorification of the Nazi era, and any attempt to diminish, deny, or justify the Holocaust.

WCC Sends Message to UN Over Afghan Killings; Expresses Sympathy for Loss of 8 Staff Members

The Ekklesia website reports today (April 7, 2011) that the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, has sent condolences to the UN, as it mourns the tragic loss of UN staff in Afghanistan in a violent response to the burning last month of a copy of the Quran in the state of Florida.

The WCC -- which works to promote positive relations between sincere people of different faiths -- deplored the degrading actions of Pastor Terry Jones in the USA.

"It is with great sadness that we received the news of the killing of eight staff members of the United Nations Operation Center in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif," Dr. Tveit said in a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The letter also said that "the entire membership of the WCC firmly rejects the actions of burning the Quran or any holy book and we feel deeply grieved by this reprehensible action conducted by a small group of people who manipulate others in the name of Christianity."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

COMMENTARY: Cardinal O'Malley's View on Catholic School Matter Is Wrong

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley this week finally provided his view on an incident in which an 8-year-old boy's admission to a Catholic school in Hingham, Massachusetts was withdrawn, once school officials realized that the boy's parents were both lesbians. Unfortunately, Cardinal O'Malley made the wrong decision in "justifying" the school's admission withdrawal.

This incident -- which has gained much national attention -- began in May 2010, when Cynthia Duggan, principal of St. Paul elementary school, and Rev. James Rafferty, the parish priest, decided that the boy must not be allowed to attend the Catholic school, because his parents' lesbian relationship was "in discord" with Catholic Church teachings.

This week -- 11 months after the boy was denied admission to the Catholic school last May -- Cardinal O'Malley stated publicly for the first time that Rev. Rafferty has "my full confidence and support" for denying the boy admission.

In supporting the decision made by Rev. Rafferty, Cardinal O'Malley has failed to show any compassion for the innocent boy involved in this case. Indeed, this unnecessary experience of the boy will undoubtedly have a negative impact on his self-esteem for many years -- perhaps even for his entire life.

The fact is that the 8-year-old boy was not gay -- his parents were lesbians. The boy's lifestyle as a student would have been similar to that of all the other students at this Catholic school. He was not different from other students.

Rev. Rafferty's decision was one that showed no empathy for the innocent child. Indeed, it was a hateful decision -- not only for this school, but for Catholicism in general -- because it conveys that the Catholic Church considers lesbian parents to be second-class citizens, thus justifying its denial of children of lesbian parents to attend Catholic schools. Cardinal O'Malley's support of Rev. Rafferty's decision in this matter only reinforces and exacerbates this Catholic prejudice.

Several gay rights groups have already blasted Cardinal O'Malley for his support of Rev. Rafferty on this incident. For example, Harry Knox -- director of the religion and faith program at America's largest gay rights group (the Human Rights Campaign) -- said that Cardinal O'Malley's support for Rev. Rafferty in this case "has failed on a number of accounts and further muddies the waters."

Now, that is a precise and sincere statement that delineates why Cardinal O'Malley is wrong in his view of this matter.

O'Malley Supports Pastor in Lesbian School Tiff; Pastor Rejected Boy Due to Two Lesbian Mothers

The Religion News Service website reports today (April 6, 2011) that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley said the pastor who turned a boy away from a Catholic school because he has two lesbian mothers has "my full confidence and support."

In his first public comments on the controversy, O'Malley said Catholic schools exist for the "good of the children," and confirmed his support for the Rev. James Rafferty, who denied admission to the 8-year-old boy at St. Paul School in Hingham, Massachusetts.

"I can attest personally that Father Rafferty would never exclude a child to sanction the child's parents," O'Malley wrote on his personal blog.

But gay rights groups chided O'Malley for his defense of the pastor's decision.

"If this blog was intended to be pastoral, it has failed on a number of accounts and further muddies the waters," said Harry Knox, the director of the religion and faith program at the country's largest gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign.

Only Islamic High School in Amsterdam to Close; About 90 Parents Plan to Teach Children at Home

The Dutch News website reports today (April 6, 2011) that nearly all the children attending Amsterdam's only Islamic secondary school have found a new school to go to when it closes this year.

Parents of some 90 of the children affected had declared they planned to teach their children at home, leading city council officials to threaten them with legal action.

Home schooling is illegal in the Netherlands, unless parents can prove there is no school that fits their beliefs within 20 kilometers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Russian Orthodox Church Confronts New Dispute; Crucifixes in Workplace Anger Russian Humanists

A new controversy has broken out in Russia between the Orthodox Church and human rights organizations, the Asia News website reports today (April 5, 2011).

The head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Relations between the Church and Society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, has appealed to the community of believers to be more courageous in showing their faith.

"We should have no qualms about making the sign of the cross whenever we like, or hanging an image of the crucifix where we live and work," Fr. Chaplin wrote in an article published in the April issue of the Orthodox journal "Sovereign Rus."

The idea of the crucifix in the workplace or in schools has angered human rights activists in Russia. Lev Ponomarev -- a noted leader of a human rights movement -- said in response to Fr. Chaplin's article, "Concern yourself more with prayers and sermons, and not with pushing for official displays of Orthodox attributes."

Ukrainians Give Icon of Chernobyl Savior to Japan; Icon Shows Christ, Virgin Mary, Archangel Michael

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine website reports today (April 5, 2011) that the Donetsk department of Soyuz Chernobyl of Ukraine has given the icon of the Chernobyl Savior to a Japanese representative.

The ceremony was held in the national opera and ballet theater. Department head Evgeny Struzhko handed over the holy image to the director of the Tereda Ballet Art School, Michiko Terada.

Shortly after the Chernobyl power station broke down in April, 1986 -- Japan is undergoing a similar catastrophe today -- Terada came to Ukraine with a ballet show, not fearing the consequences of the tragedy.

Christ, the Mother of God, Archangel Michael, and liquidators of the Chernobyl catastrophe are depicted on the icon.

Court: Money to Rel. Schools OK for Tax Breaks; Lets AZ Residents Use $500 in Taxes for Tuition

The Huffington Post website reports today (April 5, 2011) that the US Supreme Court ruled yesterday -- on a close 5 to 4 vote -- that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge government programs that use tax breaks to direct money to religious activities.

The court, in effect, ruled in favor of an Arizona scholarship program for private schools that has mainly benefited religious schools in offering a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the state income tax bill of people who participate.

The decision cheered supporters of school choice and dismayed civil libertarians, who said it will be harder to use federal courts to claim violations of the Constitution's prohibition of direct government aid to religion.

For more than 13 years, Arizona has allowed residents to send up to $500 to a tuition scholarship organization that they would have otherwise paid the state in taxes on their incomes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

France's Ban of "Nigab" Goes Into Effect April 11; Women Can Be Fined for Wearing Face Veil

The controversial ban on wearing a full face veil -- called a "nigab" by Muslims -- goes into effect in France on April 11, 2011, the France 24 website reports today (April 4, 2011).

Last week French Interior Minister Claude Gueant signed a circular -- which was sent to all of France's law enforcement agencies -- "for instructions on carrying out identity checks and for the issuing of fines."

The circular also defines the public spaces where wearing a veil would be banned as places open to the public, including parks, shops, cinemas, restaurants, and public transportation.

On the other hand, the face can be covered in the home, in hotel rooms, on corporate premises, in private vehicles, and at places of worship.

Pastor Terry Jones to Lead New Anti-Islam Rally; Plans Protest Outside Mich. Mosque on April 22

The Big News Network website reports today (April 4, 2011) that extremist US pastor Terry Jones has announced he will lead an anti-Islam rally outside the largest US mosque in Dearborn, Michigan on April 22.

The anti-Islam minister supervised the burning of the Koran -- Islam's holy book -- on his church grounds in Florida on March 20.

This event led to deadly protests in Afghanistan where a score of people were killed last week.

Jones has now defiantly vowed to lead the protest in Michigan, still claiming the Koran incites violence.

Vietnam Increases Persecution of Its Christians; Watchdog Group Adds Vietnam to "Hall of Shame"

The Vietnamese government has increased its persecution of Christians significantly in recent months, according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

The group accuses Vietnam of persecuting Christians and forcing them to renounce their faith, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 4, 2011).

"Freedom of religion does not mean freedom for state-sanctioned religions only," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch -- which maintains a "Hall of Shame" listing of countries that persecute Christians the most -- is calling on the U.S. State Department to put Vietnam back on the list of the world's worst religious rights violators. Vietnam had been removed from the State Department list in 2006.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

State Dept., UN Silent on Recent Rage in Ethiopia; Two Christians Killed, 69 Churches Destroyed

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (April 3, 2011) that neither the U.S. State Department nor the United Nations has condemned an outbreak of violence in western Ethiopia, led by Muslim radicals.

Since early March, two Christians have been killed, more than 3,000 displaced, and at least 69 churches destroyed.

Also, it appears that leading human rights organizations -- including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights First -- have not publicly condemned the attacks.

According to Reuters news service, "Local Imams say the incidents were sparked when word came out that Muslim laborers working at a construction site at a Protestant church claimed to have found pages from the Koran used as toilet paper."

COMMENTARY: Russian Orthodox Church's Financial Support for Human Life Deserves Praise

In a unique and creative initiative -- designed to promote Christian values -- the Russian Orthodox Church last week decided to provide financial aid for the birth of children by poor mothers, who had originally planned to have an abortion.

This new plan was announced by Vladimir Legoida, the chairman of the Synodal information department of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Based upon this well thought-out plan, Chairman Legoida said the Russian Orthodox Church is prepared to pay money so that women in serious financial straits would not kill their children. He emphasized that the Church will not back out of financing this plan, since the money will be used to save human lives.

This Church plan also recommends that women -- who have already agreed to have an abortion -- take a two-week break before they make their final decision. The Church will encourage these women to use the free services of a psychologist and a priest in special centers for crisis pregnancy during this two-week period.

Indeed, the Russian Orthodox Church is planning to implement a bold, unique, and expensive undertaking, in an effort to save human lives and promote Christian doctrine. It must be commended for this selfless Christian act of love and compassion.

Although the Church's plan does not address the need for continued financial assistance to families after children are born, the fact is that these children's parents will find a way to support them. On the other hand, some of these parents may decide to give their children up for adoption.

There is a great demand for adopted children in Russia -- as well as in other countries -- since some married couples are unable to produce children, and would love to be able to adopt them. The Church's plan would reduce the amount of time that adoptive parents would have to wait, since it would allow more infants to be available for these prospective parents.

To be sure, the Russian Orthodox Church's plan to discourage abortion is a win-win situation -- a win for mothers who could not otherwise afford to have a child, and a win for the Church in its beloved support of the Christian attribute to save human lives.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Monks on Mount Athos Refuse to Pay Taxes; Say They Are Exempt from Paying Under Greek Const.

Monks from the 1,000-year-old autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos this week defied the cash-strapped Greek government -- which is desperately seeking additional ways to collect money -- by refusing to pay property taxes, according to the News24 website.

Mount Athos -- also called the Holy Mount -- is divided into 20 self-governed territories on the Athos peninsula in northeastern Greece.

It serves as the spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and women are not allowed on the Athos peninsula.

Under the constitution of Greece, Mount Athos is exempt from paying taxes to the Greek government.

Brooklyn H.S. Teacher Is Held on $100,000 Bail; Said It Would Be "Columbine All Over Again"

The New York Daily News website reports today (April 2, 2011) that a Brooklyn, NY high school teacher was held on $100,000 bail today, after prosecutors revealed she had threatened a machine-gun rampage that would be "Columbine all over again."

According to prosecutors, Sabrina Milo, 34, an art teacher, was in the teachers' lounge at Fort Hamilton High School on March 29 when she delivered the threat.

Three teachers heard her mention bringing a machine gun to school beneath a trench coat before saying it would be "Columbine all over again."

Milo faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Russian Orthodox Church Will Pay for Newborns; To Pay for Poor Women Who Planned Abortions

The Pravoslavie (Russian) website reports that the Russian Orthodox Church will provide financial aid to women giving birth to newborns, who had originally planned to abort their infants due to material need.

The chairman of the Synodal information department of the Moscow Patriarchate, Vladimir Legoida, announced this intention on a religious program on Pravda Radio this week.

"Based upon its experience -- and this has all been worked out in sweat and blood -- the Church is prepared to pay money so that they (women in serious financial straits) would not kill their children. We will find the money," Legoida said.

As part of this same program, the Church also proposes that women -- who have already agreed to have an abortion -- take a two-week break before they make their final decision. These women will be encouraged to use the free services of a psychologist and priest in special centers for crisis pregnancy.

Evangelicals Condemn Killings in Afghanistan; Terry Jones: "I Am Not Responsible for Killings"

Evangelicals expressed dismay over the deaths of several United Nations workers in Afghanistan, who were killed yesterday (April 1, 2011) in retaliation for last month's burning of a Quran by a fringe Florida pastor, the Christian Post website reports today.

"No matter how much we disagree and find abhorrent the actions of Terry Jones, responding in violence can never be justified," said Dr. Geoff Tunncliffe, chief executive officer and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

Representing 420 million evangelicals, the WEA asked Muslim leaders on its website to call upon their communities to end the violence and "explain that the actions of this tiny extremist group who have burnt the Quran are absolutely condemned by Christians globally."

An unrepentant Jones said today that he was "not responsible" for the killings in Afghanistan. "They (Afghan protesters) used the Quran burning as an excuse to promote their violent activities," he said.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pope Removes Bishop from Diocese in the Congo; Removed for Mismanagement, Loss of Confidence

The Catholic Culture website reports today (April 1, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI has removed a bishop from his diocese in the Congo, because of gross mismanagement.

A terse Vatican announcement on March 31 indicated that the Holy Father had "removed Bishop Jean-Claude Makaya Loemba from the pastoral care of the diocese of Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo."

The Pope's action was triggered by severe mismanagement problems in the diocese, and by the fact that Bishop Loemba had lost the confidence of his clergy.

Bishop Loemba -- who is 56 years old -- was appointed to head the Pointe-Noire diocese in 1994.

US Ed Dept Probes Sexually Hostile Milieu at Yale; Coeds: Yale's Apathy Makes Them Feel Devalued

The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights confirmed today (April 1, 2011) that it is investigating complaints by Yale University students that the Ivy League university has a sexually hostile environment and has failed to respond to sexual harassment concerns, according to the Huffington Post website.

The students cite incidents in which fraternities held up a sign "We love Yale sluts" outside a women's center and chanted "no means yes" on campus last fall. They also say incoming female freshmen were ranked on their attractiveness.

The complaints also include allegations that Yale failed to respond to reports of rape or attempted rape and stalking, said Alexandra Brodsky, a Yale junior who is one of the complainants.

Brodsky said students who signed the complaints were "really frustrated and disappointed that Yale again and again fails to respond to both public and private acts of sexual harassment and assaults which creates an environment in which women feel devalued."

At Least 12 Killed During Koran-Burning Protest; Protesters in Afghanistan Open Fire on UN Office

Demonstrators -- incensed at the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor -- opened fire on a United Nations office today (April 1, 2011) in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 people, including three foreign UN workers, according to the Fox News website.

The rampage began when demonstrators marched in Mazar-i-Sharif and in the capital, Kabul, today to protest the burning last month of Islam's holy book by Florida pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp.

Jones captured headlines last September, when he threatened to burn the Koran on the anniversary of September 11, 2001 terror attacks. He canceled the burning after appeals from several world leaders, including President Obama.

Last month's Koran burning has also been blamed for an attack earlier this week on a Catholic Church in Pakistan.