Friday, September 30, 2011

Family Earns Over $121,000 on Welfare in Ireland; Irish Sen. Harte Calls for $68,000 Cap on Welfare

The Irish Central website reports today (September 30, 2011) that an unemployed married couple from Bosnia -- with four children -- is taking home over $121,000 per year in welfare checks.

The couple -- who live in Dublin -- take home $2,385 per week.

Labor Party Senator Jimmy Harte has called for a cap on the amount of social welfare payments a family can receive.

Harte says $68,000 is more than enough for one family per year.

Split Episcopal Parish Cannot Keep Bldg., Land; Court Rules in Favor of National Episcopal Church

The Big News Network website reports today (September 30, 2011) that the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that a 135-year-old local parish -- which broke away from the Episcopal Church after it consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop -- cannot keep its building and land.

Justices ruled today against Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, CT, which split from the national Episcopal Church after the 2003 appointment of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Similar land disputes -- involving breakaway Episcopal parishes -- have been occurring in the courts across the U.S.

The court based its ruling on the fact that church rules prohibit congregations from walking away with church properties, and those properties are held in trust for the denomination.

Dutch Protestant Church Has Its Sexual Abuse; Had 300 Abuse Complaints from 2005 to 2010

The Dutch News website reports today (September 30, 2011) that the Protestant Church received 300 complaints of sexual abuse between 2005 and 2010, according to research by the EO television program "The Fifth Day." Of these, nine were judged well-founded.

Church authorities say their complaints line receives an average of 20 calls about sexual abuse each year.

Protestant church workers -- such as vicars -- who commit sexual abuse will now have to do public penance to their victims, Arjan Plaisier of the Protestant Church Nederland said.

"It's important, for offenders and victims, that it's not swept under the carpet," he added.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vanderbilt Requires Groups to Ban Discrimination; Gay Student Was Ousted from Christian Fraternity

Tennessee's Vanderbilt University is requiring student groups on campus to comply with its policy of banning discrimination against homosexuals or the transgendered -- regardless of religious beliefs -- the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 29, 2011).

Groups that don't comply could lose funding and access to campus facilities.

The announcement was sparked by a gay student, who said he was dismissed from a Christian fraternity because he is gay.

Vanderbilt's College Republicans President Stephen Siao insisted it's the school that is guilty of discrimination, claiming it has "launched an assault on religious groups on campus."

RC Church Rips Behavior of Italy's Political Elite; Sparked by PM's Party with "Nun" Doing Striptease

The Roman Catholic Church in Italy -- which for the past several years has "looked the other way" regarding sex and corruption scandals of the country's political elite -- this week issued its strongest reprimands yet of Italy's ruling class, the New York Times website reports today (September 29, 2011).

A recently published account of a party at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's home -- where a female guest dressed as a nun performed a striptease act -- is believed to be the reason for the Catholic Church's new position.

On September 27, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco -- the head of the Italian Bishops' Conference -- called for an "upright lifestyle," saying Italy needed a "correction of habits and lifestyles" to help it emerge from a "culture of nothingness."

Although Cardinal Bagnasco did not single out Berlusconi -- who is in court fighting several corruption charges and accusations of having sex with a minor, and is now in the middle of a scandal involving prostitutes paid to attend parties at his villas -- the cardinal spoke of "licentious conduct and improper relationships that damage society."

Strauss-Kahn Meets with French Accuser in Paris; Admits to Making "Advance" on Her, Denies Rape

The Daily Beast website reports that Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- who was acquitted last month of attempting to rape a maid in his hotel room in New York City -- met face-to-face today (September 29, 2011) with Tristane Banon, the French woman who says he tried to rape her in 2002.

The meeting -- which took place in a Paris police station -- was part of an investigation.

French police routinely host confrontations when two people tell different accounts of an event that occurred.

At today's meeting, Strauss-Khan admitted to making an "advance" on Bannon, but he denied that he tried to rape her.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

COMMENTARY: Lashing Women for Driving a Car in Saudi Arabia Must End

A court in Saudi Arabia this week sentenced a woman to 10 lashes with a whip because she drove a car in that country.

Women are not allowed to drive motor vehicles in Saudi Arabia, and this woman received the lashing sentence for defying the driving ban.

In the past, women were detained for several days for driving in Saudi Arabia, but had not been sentenced by a court. It appears that Saudi Arabia has decided to impose a harsher sentence against women drivers, because a greater number of them have been driving in that country during the past two months or so.

Ironically, the lashing sentence was handed out just a few days after Saudi King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would be given the right to vote and to run for office beginning in 2015.

The fact is that under Shariah -- or Islamic law -- women are treated as second-class citizens in most Arabic nations.

For example, women who commit adultery are subject to being stoned to death. Women are are not allowed to get a divorce, but men are. Wives cannot even leave their homes, unless they have their husbands' permission to do so.

These are just a few examples of the accepted norms in Islamic nations as they demean women. Needless to say, there are many more.

Although people in Western cultures may consider this treatment of Islamic women to be degrading, Muslims -- for the most part -- have accepted them, without question, as being an integral part of their society.

But to whip a woman for driving a car is a barbaric sentence -- and one that Saudi Arabia must end.

Indeed, human beings -- both men and women -- must not be whipped or tortured for crimes they may have committed in any nation, since this kind of punishment is barbaric and is a disgrace for a civilized society.

MA Man Charged with Plan to Blow Up Pentagon; Northeastern Grad Viewed U.S. as Allah's Enemy

The Cybercast News Service website reports that a 26-year-old Massachusetts Muslim man was arrested today (September 28, 2011) and accused of plotting to destroy the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with GPS-guided remote-controlled drone aircraft filled with explosives.

Rezwan Ferdaus -- a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts -- was arrested in nearby Framingham when undercover federal agents delivered materials he had requested at a warehouse for his alleged plan -- including grenades, six machine guns, and a C-4 explosive.

Ferdaus -- a graduate of Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in physics -- appeared in a court in Worcester this afternoon, and a federal judge ordered him held without bail.

According to federal records, Ferdaus began planning "jihad" against the U.S. in early 2010. He allegedly believed he would have a great psychological impact by killing many Americans, whom he described as "enemies of Allah."

Houston Pastor Charged with Having Wife Killed; Alleged to Have Son Kill Wife to Be with Mistress

The Huffington Post website reports today (September 28, 2011) that a love triangle -- involving a Texas minister, his son, and the mistress they shared -- ended with the minister's wife dead, and the trio facing murder charges.

Tracy Bernard Burleson -- a 44-year-old Houston Baptist pastor -- is facing capital murder charges for the 2010 slaying of his wife, Paulette Burleson. She was shot while sitting in the family's garage, allegedly by her stepson, William Fuller.

Fuller -- who is also charged with murder -- insists his father hired him to commit the killing.

It appears that both men -- the pastor and his son -- were in love with 32-year-old Tyonne Palmer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ACLU Sues VA Board for Praying before Meetings; Says Non-Christians Feel Unwelcome by Prayers

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors in Virginia for praying before the start of their meetings, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 27, 2011).

The ACLU claims the prayers make non-Christian residents feel unwelcome.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff who had contacted the ACLU about the supervisors' prayers.

Referred to as "Jane Doe" in legal documents, she is a Pittsylvania County citizen who regularly attends board of supervisors' meetings, according to ACLU.

Saudi Woman Sentenced to 10 Lashes for Driving; Women Are Not Allowed to Drive in Saudi Arabia

The Atlantic Wire website reports that a Saudi Arabian court today (September 27, 2011) sentenced a woman with 10 lashes for driving a motor vehicle.

Shaima Ghassaniya was given the painful sentence for defying the country's ban on women driving.

In the past, women in Saudi Arabia were detained for several days for driving, but had not been sentenced by a court.

The lashing sentence comes just a few days after Saudi King Abdullah announced that Saudi women will be given the right to vote and to run for office beginning in 2015.

New Poll: Czech Students Interested in Spirituality; Young Say Church, Church-Going Are Past Relics

The Prague Monitor website reports today (September 27, 2011) that three-quarters of Czech students are interested in spirituality and more than half of secondary pupils are "seekers," according to a May poll conducted on 7,000 students for the Academy for Young Christians that was released yesterday.

The young say, however, that the church and church-going are relics of the past, and that religion brings neither happiness nor freedom.

The Czech Republic is referred to as one of the most atheistic countries in the world.

About 17 percent of the students can be marked as atheists and 7 percent as Christian believers, according to the poll.

Monday, September 26, 2011

France to Build a New Islamic Center in Paris; Muslims Can Worship at Former Fire Station

The Voice of America News website reports today (September 26, 2011) that Paris plans to build a new Islamic center to address two issues -- a shortage of mosques for the city's sizable Muslim community, and a new law banning street prayers.

Meanwhile, Muslims have been invited to worship in an unusual venue -- an old unused fire station at the edge of Paris. Hundreds of Muslims began worshiping there this month.

Paris plans to use public funds to finance the cultural part of the new Islamic center, while the Islamic community will finance the religious part.

With some six million Muslims believed to be living in the nation, France has more Muslims than any other country in all of Europe.

Security Council Discussing Palestine's UN Bid; UN Expected to Grant Palestine Observer Status

The United Nations Security Council today (September 26, 2011) starts considering -- in closed consultations -- the issue of Palestine's UN membership bid, according to the Eurasia Review website.

On September 23, President Mahmoud Abbas -- the head of the Palestine Authority -- handed over his request to recognize Palestine's independence and to grant it full membership rights to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Because of its close relationship with Israel -- which adamantly opposes UN recognition of Palestine -- the United States said it will veto the Palestine membership bid when it comes up for a vote in the Security Council.

That being the case, the UN General Assembly -- where most of its nations have shown support for Palestine's UN bid -- can still grant Palestine "observer" status. Such a status will allow the Palestinians to participate in many forums and to file lawsuits against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

Muslims in France Protest Ban on Street-Praying; Threaten to Take Up Arms Soon and to "Rise Up"

The Europe News website reports today (September 26, 2011) that several hundred Muslim men gathered in the streets of Paris during the past week to protest a recent ban on praying in the streets.

One Muslim man complained that members of his religion were "oppressed."

The man threatened widespread violence, and told a film crew: "Muslims are going to pick up arms soon and are going to rise up."

France passed a law this month, which banned praying in the streets of Paris, as of September 16, 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Two Orthodox Church Heads Meet in Ukraine; Agree to Dialogue to Achieve Orthodox Unity

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine website reports today (September 25, 2011) that a meeting was held between the head of the Kiev Patriarchate, Patriarch Filaret, and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous (self-headed) Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Mefodii, on September 14, in order to discuss unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

The meeting was also attended by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

At the meeting, the primates signed a joint statement regarding the fruitfulness and usefulness of the meeting, and agreement to take steps to resume the dialogue between the two Churches for the restoration of unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided into three major branches: the Orthodox Church--Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church--Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church which is independent. There is also the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) which is under the jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome.

Calif. Woman Can Be Fined for Cross on Lawn; Neighbors: Cross Drives Down Property Values

A retired San Fernando Valley woman could face thousands of dollars in zoning fines for erecting a 24-foot-high cross on her property, the CBS website reports today (September 25, 2011).

Los Angeles Building and Safety inspectors visited the home of Laly Dobener on September 22, after receiving complaints from neighbors determined she had violated the laws by erecting an unpermitted structure.

Building and Safety spokesman Dave Lara said, "She has two options: She can take it down, or she can try to get a permit."

The 72-year-old retired baker faces an immediate fine of $336, and has 30 days to either dismantle the cross or obtain a permit.

Neighbors claim the cross is driving down property values.

Saudi King Gives Women Right to Vote -- in 2015; Women Still Not Allowed to Drive in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah announced today (September 25, 2011) that the nation's women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015 in a major advancement for the rights of women, according to the Associated Press website.

The Saudi monarch said he ordered the step after consulting with the nation's top religious clerics, whose advice carries weight in the Islamic kingdom.

The right to vote is by far the biggest change introduced by Abdullah -- considered a reformer -- since he became the country's ruler in 1995.

Women are still not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and men and women are separated in public.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

COMMENTARY: Turkey Must End Its Megalomaniac Threats, Leave Cyprus

Recep Tayyip Erdogen, prime minister of Turkey, this week lashed out at Cyprus'government for its "madness for an oil search" in the Mediterranean Sea.

He also threatened the Cyprus government by saying that Turkey was sending warships to the area, in an effort to force Cyprus to end its oil exploration.

Erdogen's threat can be compared to a small child having a temper tantrum, because a neighboring child was given a new scooter or other toy that he would have wanted to receive.

In the first place, Turkey has no authority whatsoever to be testing the waters off the coast of Cyprus, because Cyprus is an independent -- and predominantly Greek-inhabited -- nation in the Mediterranean Sea.

Turkey illegally seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 by taking advantage of a power crisis on the island between Greece and Cyprus, and sending thousands of Turkish troops to the island at that time. Turkey has maintained its illegal control of northern Cyprus to the present day, and is the only country in the world to recognize it.

The European Union (EU) and the United Nations have condemned Turkey's control of northern Cyprus, and have said it should relinquish its control of it. In fact, the EU has told Turkey -- in no uncertain terms -- that it must relinquish its control of northern Cyprus before it can become a member of the EU, which Turkey eagerly would like to do.

Needless to say, Turkey's audacious threat to Cyprus for exploring the waters off its own coast for oil is an incredible threat -- and even borders on megalomania. The fact is that Turkey itself has no more right to explore the Cypriot waters for oil than the Congo -- or any other country.

Moreover, Turkey has no right to tell Cypriots that they cannot explore their own waters.

If Turkey wants to explore the Mediterranean Sea for oil, it is free to do so along its own huge Mediterranean coastal waters, but not off Cypriot waters.

Insofar as Cyprus is concerned, the best thing Turkey can do is to take its 35,000 troops out of the northern sector of the country, and return that illegally-controlled portion of the island to the government of Cyprus.

Then -- and only then -- will Turkey be eligible to join the European Union.

Atheist Takes City to Court over Seal with Cross; Court Had Ruled That Zion, Ill. Seal Be Removed

The Christian post website reports today (September 24, 2011) that atheist Rob Sherman has filed a contempt of court motion in a federal court against the city of Zion, Illinois for using an old and banned version of the city seal that contains a cross.

Sherman filed his motion after an ad in the Lake County News-Sun last week featured the earlier city seal containing a cross, a dove, and the phrase "God Reigns."

In 1991, a U.S. appellate court ruled that the city seal violated the principle of church and state, and that the Christian symbols must be removed.

The ruling concerned a 1987 lawsuit against the seal by the Illinois chapter of American Atheists, which was then led by Sherman, a Buffalo Grove resident.

DSK to Face French Writer Accusing Him of Rape; Says Tristane Banon's Allegations Are "Imaginary"

The Paris prosecutor's office said today (September 24, 2011) that Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- who was acquitted last month of attempting to rape a maid in his New York City hotel room -- will be questioned by France's police alongside the French writer who has accused him of attempted rape, according to the Washington Post website.

Police interviewed Strauss-Kahn -- the former International Monetary Fund chief -- 11 days ago about Tristane Banon's allegations. Prosecutors did not specify a date for the confrontation.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, has called Banon's accusations "imaginary" and has filed a defamation lawsuit against her.

Banon sought the confrontation and organized a demonstration scheduled for tomorrow in front of the Paris courthouse in support of stricter penalties for sexual crimes against women.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Criminals in Alabama Can Choose Church or Jail; Bay Minette Allows One Yr.of Church Attendance

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (September 23, 2011) that authorities in Bay Minette, Alabama have decided that non-violent offenders now have a choice: Go to jail, or go to church every Sunday for one year.

In the "Operation Restore Our Community" program -- which goes into effect next week -- the city judge will let misdemeanor offenders choose to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine -- or go to church every Sunday for a year.

If offenders select church, they will be allowed to pick the place of worship, but must check in weekly with the pastor and the police department.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said the program could change the lives of people heading down the wrong path. So far, 56 churches are participating.

Palestinian Christians Issue a Joint Statement; Support Palestinian State with Jerusalem Capital

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (September 23, 2011) that the main Christian denominations in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have issued a joint statement supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

About 57,000 Christians live in the territories concerned.

Theodosios Atallah Hanna -- the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia -- said the Palestinian people deserve a state and United Nations recognition.

Archbishop Hanna said, "We are part of these people and we support this. We work side by side with all the sectors of the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, for our freedom and our independence, and to establish our independent Palestinian state, and its capital Jerusalem."

Pope Prays for Christian Unity in Native Germany; Says Christian Unity Is Not Like Signing a Treaty

Visiting the land of Martin Luther -- who had a greater impact than any other person for the birth of the Protestant religion -- Pope Benedict XVI prayed for Christian unity and told Lutheran leaders today (September 23, 2011) that both secularization and Christian fundamentalism pose challenges to ecumenism, according to the Catholic News Service website.

"God is increasingly being driven out of our society... Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization and become modern by watering down the faith?" the pope said at a meeting today with 15 representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council in Erfurt, Germany -- the home of Martin Luther.

Regarding Christian unity, the pope said progress in Christian unity is "not like negotiating a treaty."

He elaborated that ecumenism will advance when Christians enter more deeply into their shared faith and profess it more openly in society.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Women Convicted for Wearing Islamic Veils; Defied France's Ban That Went into Effect in April

A French court has convicted and fined two women for wearing Islamic face veils in public, in defiance of a ban that went into effect in April, according to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website.

On September 22, 2011, the court in the town of Meaux -- near Paris -- fined the women 120 and 80 euros respectively.

In May, the women had shown up wearing niqabs outside the Meaux town hall with a birthday cake for the conservative mayor, who championed the ban.

Several women have been fined on the spot by police for wearing the niqab, but today's case is the first one to come to court.

Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Opens in NYC; Groups Had Tried to Prevent Ctr. from Being Built

The LA Times website reports today (September 22, 2011) that an Islamic community center -- which fueled angry demonstrations because of its proximity to the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- has opened quietly in Lower Manhattan, drawing no protesters.

The scene at yesterday's official opening at the building on Park Place -- about two and one-half blocks from the former World Trade Center towers -- was far different from a year ago, when the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks became a platform for groups trying to prevent the center from going forward.

The new owner's decision to use a former Burlington Coat Factory building as an Islamic center divided politicians and survivors of September 11 victims -- some saying the project was an insult because it is so close to ground zero.

Others -- who were supported by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- said the center was the ideal way to improve ties among New York's diverse groups.

Turkish PM Lashes Out at Cyprus, Israel over Oil; Sends Turkish Warships to Area to Halt Oil Probe

The Europe News website reports today (September 22, 2011) that Turkey's prime minister has lashed out at Cyprus and Israel for their "madness for an oil search" in the Mediterranean Sea.

Recep Tayyip Erdogen said on September 20 that a Turkish research ship will be "speedily" sent to the area after Cyprus began a similar search near sizable gas finds inside Israeli waters earlier this week.

He also said Turkey is sending warships to the area, in an effort to force Cyprus to halt its exploration.

Cyprus -- an independent nation -- has been divided since 1974, when Turkey illegally seized the northern third of island that is primarily inhabited by Greeks. Turkey is the only nation in the world to recognize Turkish Cypriot north, and maintains 35,000 troops there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

COMMENTARY: Time for Pat Robertson to Retire as a Televangelist

Pat Robertson -- the popular American televangelist -- last week advised a viewer of the "700 Club" TV program to avoid putting a "guilt trip" on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's disease.

During the show's advice segment, Robertson -- in answering a viewer's question about a husband's relationship with another woman because his wife has Alzheimer's -- said he would not fault anyone for doing this. Robertson then added that it would be understandable to divorce a wife who had Alzheimer's, in order to remarry another woman.

Robertson's advice on this matter shocked millions of Americans -- including many clergy -- who believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment "in sickness and in health... till death do us part," as the marriage vow states.

Robertson should have known better than to have recommended divorce and remarriage because a spouse has Alzheimer's disease. Does he not know that his advice clearly contradicts the Word of God in the Holy Gospel?

Of course he does. He tries to justify his recommendation by saying that Alzheimer's disease is "like death," in that the person who has it may not even recognize his or her own spouse.

This is not the first time that Robertson's views have resulted in controversy and condemnation. For example, his response to the 2010 severe earthquake in Haiti -- that Haitians were "cursed" by God -- also resulted in much criticism from Christian theologians.

Moreover, Robertson's blaming the people of New Orleans for hurricane Katrina, and blaming Americans for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks shocked many Americans.

Indeed, Robertson -- a former Southern Baptist minister -- has taken some strange views on several recent events. His view last week on divorce and remarriage for a husband whose wife has Alzheimer's disease is contrary to Christian doctrine. This view can be considered the straw that broke the camel's back, insofar as Robertson's respect from the vast majority of Americans is concerned.

For the goodness of the United States citizens and himself, it is now time for the 81-year-old Robertson to retire as a televangelist.

UK Police Seize Islamic Extremists in Birmingham; Six Men Being Held on Suspicion of Terrorism Act

British police arrested a group of suspected Islamic extremists in Birmingham, England during a large-scale counter-terrorism raid on September 19, 2011 -- the largest of its kind this year -- according to the Europe News website.

Six men -- aged between 25 and 32 -- were arrested and were being held on suspicion of the "commission, preparation, or instigation" of an act of terrorism.

One 22-year-old woman was also arrested for not disclosing information to police.

Russian Church Opens Youth Hospice in Moscow; 3,000 Moscow Children Have Incurable Diseases

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (September 21, 2011) that the Moscow Patriarchate is organizing a fundraising action for children's hospice on September 25 in frames of charitable event "The Day of White Flower."

"It is planned to open the hospice in Sts. Martin and Mary Convent where the event will take place.Ambulatory service will start working on October 3, and we will need about 4 million rubles for launching an in-patient department," the Synodal Department for Church Charities and Social Service said.

Children's hospice at Sts. Martin and Mary Convent will be the first in Moscow arranged not only for children with oncology, but also with other incurable diseases.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 children in Moscow suffer from incurable diseases.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Exclusive: Obama Admin. Gets Tough on Pakistan; Asserts Pakistan Must Cut Ties with Taliban Group

The Washington Post website -- in an exclusive report today (September 20, 2011) -- states that the Obama administration has sharply warned Pakistan that it must cut ties with a leading Taliban group based in the tribal region along the Afghan border and help eliminate its leaders.

In what amounts to an ultimatum, administration officials have indicated the U.S. will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today, "We are going to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces" in Afghanistan from attacks by the Haqqani terrorist network, which has had a long relationship with Pakistan's intelligence service.

"We've continued to state that this cannot happen," Panetta added, of the Haqqani strikes -- including a September 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

FFRF Files Lawsuit Over Clergy Tax Exemptions; Claims They Violate a Clause of 1st Amendment

The New American website reports today (September 20, 2011) that the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman for what it alleges to be an unconstitutional exemption for Christian ministers.

The FFRF contends that the housing exemptions offered to Christian ministers are unconstitutional, in that they violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Current tax law permits clergy to be paid in tax-free dollars. Members of clergy are also allowed to deduct mortgage interest and property tax payments.

The lawsuit further indicates that millions of dollars continue to go untaxed each year as a result of these exemptions.

Saudi Arabia Gives $10M for UN Anti-Terror Ctr.; UN Sec.-Gen.: It's Counter-Terrorism Cooperation

The Daily Telegraph (Australian) website reports today (September 20, 2011) that Saudi Arabia will donate $10 million for a new counter-terrorism center at United Nations headquarters in New York City.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told UN member states today, "What I see here today is the start of a new era in counter-terrorism cooperation. States recognize that they cannot go it alone."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, "No population, no state can consider itself permanently immune to the threat of terrorism."

Juppe added, "The fight against terrorism is not about one country fighting another. Democracy is waging a war against indiscriminate and craven violence, wherever it originates."

Monday, September 19, 2011

UMC Clergy Push Bishops on Gay Union Ban; UMC Law Forbids Ceremonies of Gay Unions

The United Methodist Church (UMC) website reports today (September 19, 2011) that more than 300 United Methodist clergy and 500 laity have signed letters urging the Council of Bishops to take a public stand in supporting the denomination's position on marriage and homosexuality.

The letters are in response to pledges to bless same-sex unions signed this summer by more than 900 active and retired clergy across the U.S.

"The church needs you to lead," the clergy letter tells the bishops. "We need you to issue a public statement... that you stand together in your commitment to defend and enforce the Book of Discipline."

The Book of Discipline -- the UMC's law book -- prohibits UMCs from hosting and clergy from officiating at "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions."

Swedish Intelligence Raid Mosque in Gothenburg; Seize Computer, Charge Four for Planning Murder

Swedish intelligence seized a computer during a raid on a mosque in Gothenburg -- Sweden's second largest city -- last week, after the arrest of four people by counter-terrorist police, the Swedish Wire website reports today (September 19, 2011).

Intelligence service Sapo on September 15 seized the computer of a religious leader to try to find evidence about a foiled attack on an art gallery.

Four men -- of Somali and Iraqi origin -- were arrested on September 17 on suspicion of preparing to carry out a terrorist act.

Swedish prosecutors charged the four men with ties to the Somali Islamist movement Shebab for planning murder.

Pope Will Visit Native Germany September 22-25; Will Meet Clergy of Germany's Protestant Church

Pope Benedict said yesterday (September 18, 2011)that he would pray with German Protestants during his visit this week to the cradle of the European Reformation, but played down expectations of a breakthrough in ecumenical ties, according to Reuters website.

The Pope's September 22-25 visit to Germany -- his native country -- has prompted some Protestants to call for more ecumenical measures, such as joint communions and Catholic recognition of Protestant churches.

Benedict will visit Erfurt -- at one time the home of Martin Luther -- whose reform movement in 1517 split Western Europe's Christians into Protestants and Catholics.

"In the Augustinian monastery and church where Luther began his path, I will have the opportunity to meet representatives of Germany's Protestant Church," Benedict said.

Protestants and Catholics are equally represented in Germany, with each one holding about 31 percent of Germany's population.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Strauss-Khan Has First Interview Since Acquittal; Calls Liaison with NY Hotel Maid a "Moral Failing"

The France 24 website reports that former IMF (International Monetary Fund) Director Dominique Strauss-Khan admitted today (September 18, 2011) his encounter with a New York hotel maid had been a "moral failing," but insisted he had not tried to rape her.

The 62-year-old Socialist politician and economist -- who abandoned his plan to run for president of France next year -- also denied he had previously sexually assaulted two women in France who recently filed charges against him.

Interviewed by a woman friend of his wife on TF1 network news in Paris today, Strauss-Kahn said what happened in his seven-minute encounter with Nafissatou Diallo -- the maid he was acquitted of sexually assaulting in a New York hotel -- was a "moral failing of which I am not proud," but insisted police found "no scratches, no wounds, no sign of violence" on the maid's body.

He did not elaborate on what had precisely occurred with Diallo in his hotel suite. Diallo's French lawyer called Strauss-Kahn's interview "a public relations exercise."

Montenegro Will Make Judaism a State Religion; To Receive Same Status as Cath., Orthodoxy, Islam

The Jerusalem Post website reports today (September 18, 2011) that Montenegro's Prime Minister Igor Luksic yesterday told Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger that his country would recognize Judaism as a state religion.

During a meeting held in Podgorica -- the capital of Montenegro -- Luksic said the Jewish faith will receive the same legal status as Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam.

There is only a handful of Jews living in Montenegro -- a former state of Yugoslavia before it was broken up in 1991 -- but state officials hope elevating the religion's status will encourage interest and investment from Jews around the world in Montenegro.

Yasha Alfandri -- President of the Montenegro Jewish Community -- said: "This is truly an important and exciting step taken by the leaders of Montenegro and will certainly provide a boost for the development of our community and raises Jewish pride in our wonderful country."

Finland Makes Its Premier Terror-Related Arrest; Two Somali Natives Believed to Finance Terrorism

The Finland News website reports today (September 18, 2011) that the two people who were arrested on September 7 on suspicion of financing terrorism and terror recruitment have foreign backgrounds and their alleged actions were not aimed at Finland.

The two are the first-ever terror-linked arrests in Finland. "The actions involved were not aimed at Finland," Detective Inspector Kaj-Erik Bjorkvist from the National Bureau of Investigation said.

Although Finland's police and intelligence officials refuse to reveal the gender and native background of the two arrested, the Gulf-Times website reports today that the two -- a man and a woman -- are of Somali origin.

Last January, Finnish intelligence said it was keeping an eye on "several dozen" inhabitants in Finland with contacts with the radical Shebab Islamist group in Somalia.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

COMMENTARY: City Code Prohibiting Bible Study in Homes Is Ridiculous

A couple in San Juan Capistrano, California was recently fined $300 by the city for holding a Bible study meeting in their home.

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm were told by the city that they now face $500 fines for each additional Bible Study session they hold.

City officials say that a city code prohibits religious organizations without a permit, which can be a very expensive procedure.

This city code ruling is ridiculous, and was most likely passed in order to bring in revenue to the city. Even worse, it is a denial of the religious freedom that the Fromms -- and all of the other citizens in San Juan Capistrano -- are entitled to have.

It is unlikely that this city ruling will stand up in the courts, since it violates individuals' constitutional rights.

The right to hold a meeting to learn about the Bible is one thing; the right to hold a meeting to plan to overthrow the U.S. government is something else. One right relates to religious freedom; the other "right" relates to treason.

The president of the Pacific Justice Institute -- which is representing the Fromms -- said: "We cannot allow this (denial of religious freedom) to happen in America."

The Institute intends to address this matter in the courts, until religious freedom is restored in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Exclusive: Pakistani Govt. Has Ties to Haqqani; Militant Group Blamed for Attacks in Afghanistan

The Voice of America News website reports exclusively today (September 17, 2011) that Cameron Munter -- the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan -- says Washington has evidence linking the Pakistani government to a militant group blamed for a series of attacks in Afghanistan.

Munter told Radio Pakistan there are ties between Islamabad and the Haqqani network. He also said those ties must be severed.

The U.S. has suspected the Pakistani intelligence agency has ties to Haqqani network and other militant groups in Afghanistan -- but very rarely says so publicly.

The U.S. and NATO have blamed the Haqqani network for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops and on U.S. targets -- including the September 13 strike against the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

City Fines Couple $300 for Holding a Bible Study; Aid:"We Cannot Allow This to Happen in America"

The World Net Daily website reports today (September 17, 2011) that officials in the city of San Juan Capistrano, California have fined a couple $300 for holding a Bible study in their home.

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm face the potential for additional fines of $500 for each study held, according to a legal team taking their case to court.

City officials say a city code prohibits religious organizations in residential neighborhoods without a conditional-use permit -- a very expensive procedure.

Brad Dacus -- president of Pacific Justice Institute, which is working on the case on behalf of the Fromms -- said, "We cannot allow this to happen in America, and we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to restore this group's religious freedom."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poll: Pastors Feel Denominations Are Still Vital; Say Their Importance Will Lessen in Next 10 Yrs.

The Baptist Press News website reports today (September 16, 2011) that three-quarters of pastors with denominational affiliation believe it is vital to be part of a denomination, but a majority also believe that the importance of identifying with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years.

That is the finding of a survey by LifeWay Research of more than 900 American Protestant pastors.

The survey excluded pastors of nondenominational churches.

Regarding the survey, Frank Page -- president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee -- said, "It is heartening to know that most pastors still understand the need for making a clear statement doctrinally as well as to work together to do the work God has commanded."

Bloomberg: Jobs Crisis Could Spar Riots in U.S.; Says Damage to Jobless Youth Will Go on for Yrs.

The CNN Money website reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- during his weekly radio show today (September 16, 2011) -- said that high U.S. unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots in the U.S. that have swept through Europe and North Africa in recent months.

"You have a lot of kids graduating college, who can't find jobs," Bloomberg said.

"The public is not happy," he said. "The public knows there is something wrong in this country, and there is. The bottom line is that they're upset."

"The damage to a generation that can't find jobs will go on for many, many years," Bloomberg said.

Praying in Streets of Paris Is Now against the Law; Ban Could Later Be Extended to the Rest of France

The Telegraph (British) website reports that as of today (September 16, 2011) praying in the streets of Paris is against the law.

Claude Gueant -- France's interior minister -- warned that police will use force if Muslims or those of other faiths disobey the new rule to keep the French capital's public spaces secular.

Gueant said the ban could later be extended to the rest of France -- especially the Mediterranean cities of Nice and Marseilles -- where "the problem persists."

He promised the new legislation would be followed to the letter as it "hurts the sensitivities of many of our fellow citizens."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Patriarch Kirill Seeks Ukraine's Return to Roots; Urges Orthodox to Unite in Moscow Patriarchate

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine website reports today (September 15, 2011) that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia -- while on a visit to Ukraine this week -- said Ukraine's prosperity hinges on its return to its "Kyivan Rus" spiritual roots.

"For Ukraine to be strong, it should consolidate around the principal values on which the life of the entire Holy Rus was based, including today's Ukraine -- from St. Vladimir's Christianization to the present day," Patriarch Kirill said, following a liturgy service he conducted on Theater Square in Luhansk, Ukraine.

It is important for the "Church to overcome the separation, so that the Orthodox Ukrainian people gather again around one chalice," he said.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union -- resulting in Ukraine's independence in 1991 -- many Orthodox Ukrainians became members of the newly-established Kiev Patriarchate, in order to be independent of the Ukrainian Moscow Patriarchate. Patriarch Kirill has on several occasions tried to convince all Orthodox Ukrainians to unite in the Moscow Patriarchate -- thus eliminating the Kiev Patriarchate -- but his efforts have been adamantly rejected.

US Envoys Arrive in Mideast for Desperate Feat; Try to Persuade Palestinian Leaders Drop UN Bid

In a last-ditch effort to persuade the Palestinian leaders to drop their statehood bid at the United Nations next week, the U.S. sent two senior envoys to the Middle East to try to revive the long-stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

The U.S. Middle East envoy David Hale and senior White House aide Dennis Ross arrived in Israel yesterday to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Eurasia Review website reports today (September 15, 2011).

Hale and Ross will then move to Ramallah to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to dissuade him from going ahead with his plan to seek UN recognition of the Palestinian State and full membership for the new state in the UN.

The U.S. diplomatic effort is probably too little and too late. President Abbas announced earlier this week that there can be no turning back on the plan to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian State -- a topic that is scheduled to be discussed and voted on by the UN on September 20.

Cabinet in The Netherlands to Ban Burka Sept. 16; Netherlands Joins France and Belgium in Its Ban

The Dutch News website reports today (September 15, 2011) that the cabinet in the Netherlands will introduce a ban on the Islamic burka at it September 16 meeting.

Women caught wearing the burka after tomorrow would be fined 380 Euros.

When the ban becomes effective, the Netherlands will be the third European country -- behind France and Belgium -- to ban the face-covering garment.

Fewer than 100 women in the Netherlands are believed to wear a burka.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

COMMENTARY: Muslims Should Sue NYC for Secretly Profiling Them as Terrorists

It was revealed this week by the Associated Press that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given "the green light" to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to allow its agents to spy on Muslims in the city.

In at least one known venue -- the New York City police department -- CIA agents have infiltrated the department in predominantly Muslim areas of the city, in an effort to obtain information on possible terrorist activities.

The primary objective behind this CIA spying is to prevent terrorist acts -- like those of September 11, 2001 -- from occurring.

While this kind of spying -- which is a violation of Muslims' constitutional rights -- may provide New York City officials with information on Muslim activities, it is contrary to the American democratic process and to the individual freedom to which Muslims are entitled.

Mayor Bloomberg "justifies" these illegal actions of profiling Muslims by claiming they are meant to be "preventative;" that is, to prevent future terrorist attacks from occurring in New York City. In fact, he said he intends to broaden this infiltration technique by soon using it in several other city departments.

The fact is that -- preventative or not -- these secret spying activities are a violation of Muslims' constitutional rights.

A Muslim court case against Mayor Bloomberg and New York City will most likely result because of their usage.

SNAP Files Complaint at ICC against Pope, Others; Charged with Concealing Worldwide Sex Crimes

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (September 14, 2011) that a campaign to hold the pope responsible for "crimes against humanity" is not a publicity stunt, although legal experts tend to doubt it will have much success in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In an unprecedented move, abuse victims filed a complaint that seeks to hold Pope Benedict XVI and others responsible for the "systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world."

Lawyers representing SNAP -- the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- filed the 84-page complaint at the ICC in The Hague, the Netherlands on September 13.

PLO Official: Palestine State to Be Free of Jews; Plan Called "Despicable Form of Anti-Semitism"

The Y Net News (Israeli) website reports that the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) Ambassador to the U.S. Maen Areikat said today (September 14, 2011) that any future Palestinian state must be free of Jews.

Areikat declared that the PLO seeks a secular state, but that Palestinians need separation to work on their own national identity.

Elliot Abrams -- a former U.S. National Security Council official -- said such a plan would make Palestine the first nation to officially prohibit Jews since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was cleansed of Jews.

Abrams described the demand as a "despicable form of anti-Semitism."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Muslims in U.S. Don't Want to Live under Shariah; Many Fled Muslim World to Escape Shariah Law

The Huffington Post website reports today (September 13, 2011) that a coalition of Muslim groups say they don't want to live under Shariah (Islamic) law in Michigan -- or anywhere else.

An umbrella group -- called the American Islamic Leadership Conference -- recently announced its support for a proposed Michigan law that would forbid state judges from enforcing foreign laws (including Shariah), when they violate the U.S. Constitution.

The statement said the group recognized that people of faith had the right to religious arbiters so long as their decisions did not conflict with American law.

Manda Ervin -- head of the Maryland-based Alliance of Iranian Women -- said: "Many of us fled the Muslim world to escape Shariah law... We do not wish these laws to follow us here."

No New Nations on US Rel. Freedom Blacklist; State Dept. Fails to List Watchdog's 6 New Nations

The U.S. State Department -- under President Obama -- issued its "countries of particular concern" (CPC) list today (September 13, 2011), maintaining the eight countries that were previously highlighted for egregious violation against religious freedom, according to the Christian Post website.

Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan were again designated as CPCs -- often referred to as the "International Hall of Shame."

Leonard Leo -- chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) -- said while his group welcomes the CPC designations of the Obama administration, it "is concerned that no new countries were added to the list."

USCIRF -- an independent watchdog group on international religious freedom -- had recommended the State Department also label Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam as CPCs.

Demetrios: Church of St. Nicholas to Be Rebuilt; Says Rebuilding of the Church Is Unquestionable

Even though the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas -- completely destroyed by the Twin Towers' collapse in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 -- is not included in the overall reconstruction plan for the region, it will be "built again, it will constitute a world symbol of prayer and will be open for all people," Archbishop Demetrios of America said on September 11, 2011.

He emphasized that "the final decision will be made in the current year," in stressing that the rebuilding of the church is unquestionable, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

Last February, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America submitted a lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- which is responsible for the development of the location -- because its new director revised the initial decision, projecting "various excuses" to prevent the church from being built, according to Archbishop Demetrios.

On Sunday's 10th anniversary of September 11, His Eminence noted that "it permanently and irrevocably marked life, not only here in New York, in America, but on a global level."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Police Say AZ Church Was a House of Prostitution; Brothel Generated Tens of Thousands of $ a Month

A church in Arizona -- called the Phoenix Goddess Temple -- has been accused of being a house of prostitution, and a six-month undercover investigation has resulted in the arrests of 20 women and men who worked there, according to the CNN website.

Sgt. Steve Martos -- a Phoenix police spokesman -- said authorities are still searching for 17 more people, all of whom have been indicted in connection with the prostitution enterprise.

Police seized evidence last week showing that "male and female 'practitioners' working at the Temple were performing sexual acts in exchange for monetary 'donations,' all on the pretense of providing 'neo tantric' healing therapies," Phoenix police said.

The alleged brothel generated tens of thousands of dollars a month, Martos told CNN.

Abp. of Canterbury to Resign His Post Next Year; Expected to Return toTeaching at Cambridge Univ.

The Reuters website reports today (September 12, 2011) that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams -- the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion -- will resign his position next year, in order to return to academic life.

Williams, 61, may take up a senior post at Cambridge University.

Williams -- who conducted the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London last April -- taught theology at Cambridge and Oxford universities ahead of a church career that saw him become Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

The normal retirement age for Church of England bishops is 70.

NYC Mayor Says It Is All Right to Spy on Muslims; Bloomberg: NYC Spying Meant to Be Preventative

The Associated Press website reports today (September 12, 2011) that it has unearthed information confirming that the New York City Police Department -- under the guidance of a CIA operative -- has placed clandestine cops in Muslim-majority neighborhoods, in order to infiltrate the community and identify factors that could signal an eventual terror attack.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is defending this kind of surveillance -- despite the fact that it violates individuals' constitutional rights -- and he even goes so far as to say that he plans to monitor additional areas soon.

"As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before," Bloomberg told the Associated Press.

Instead of agreeing that the secret surveillance is spying on Muslims without a specific justification, Bloomberg says that the spying techniques are meant to be "preventative."

There is an old adage that can be applied to Bloomberg's implementation and support of these illegal activities: "The end justifies the means."

What do Theology and Society readers think about these illegal secret surveillance activities being conducted in NYC against Muslims? Are these activities justified (because of September 11, 2001) even though they deny Muslims their constitutional rights? Should individual rights transcend these illegal terror "preventative" activities. Please feel free to leave a comment on this controversial situation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Exclusive: Former VP Says Israel Will Attack Iran; Dick Cheney: Israel Will Bomb Nuclear Facilities

The Newsmax website -- as a result of an exclusive interview with former United States Vice President Dick Cheney -- reports today (September 11, 2011) that Cheney believes Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.

"I think they would," Cheney said when asked about the possibility. "I think Iran represents an existential threat, and they'll do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security."

Cheney added, "I've had a number of conversations with a lot of Israeli officials, and I think they correctly perceive Iran as a basic threat."

Pope Calls for Solidarity in 9/11 Anniv. Letter; "God Consoles Those Who Mourn Loss of Loved Ones"

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the world's need for compassion and justice in a letter marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the Eurasia Review website reports today (September 11, 2011).

"It is my fervent prayer," the Pope told New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a letter, "that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future."

Pope Benedict praised the American people for "the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence."

He said his prayers were joined with those of Archbishop Dolan, "in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones."

Flight 93 Victims Lauded at Memorial Dedication; 4,000 Attend Ceremony at 9/11 PA Crash Scene

The 40 passengers and crew who fought back against their hijackers aboard Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 performed one of the most courageous acts in U.S. history, former President George W. Bush said yesterday (September 10, 2011), at a ceremony dedicating the first phase of a memorial at the newest U.S. national park in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Bush also pointed to what he called a shining example of democracy in action, referring to the group's decision to hold a vote to decide to try to overpower the hijackers, according to the Washington Times website.

The dedication of Flight 93 National Memorial drew more than 4,000 people -- including hundreds of victims' relatives -- to the rural Pennsylvania field where the hijacked plane crashed 10 years ago.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar noted that there is still work to be done on the memorial. When it is finished, it will include a "Tower of Voices" with 40 wind chimes.

Private and public donors have contributed $52 million, but $10 million more is needed to build a visitors'center and finish landscaping, Salazar said.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

COMMENTARY: United Nations Needs to Recognize Palestine as a Member Nation

In just a few days -- September 20, 2011 to be exact -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas will submit a request to the United Nations that it accept the state of Palestine as a UN member.

The paramount Palestinian goal for UN membership is to end 44 years of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories that Israel seized during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War in June 1967.

Although the United States -- Israel's closest ally -- has threatened to veto Palestine's request for statehood when this matter is addressed in the UN Security Council, Palestine may still be recognized as a state by the UN.

Most of the UN member nations -- including most likely all of its Arab nations -- agree that Palestine should be recognized by the UN. Consequently, if the UN Security Council vetoes Palestine's attempt of UN recognition, Palestine has said it will refer the matter to the UN General Assembly, where it will probably be recognized as an autonomous nation.

To be sure, Israel is opposed to to the UN recognition of Palestine because Israel fears that it will be pressured by the UN to return the Palestinian land it seized in 1967.

Even President Obama recently said that Israel should agree to the pre-1967 war borders with Palestine -- perhaps with some territorial swaps -- in order to establish a long-term peace in the Middle East. Israel does not appear to be in favor of such a peace plan.

In the final analysis, the decision to be made by the UN this month with respect to Palestinian statehood will have a significant impact on the Arab-Israeli peace process for the foreseeable future.

If the UN accepts Palestine as a member nation -- as it really should -- we can expect peace between Israelis and Palestinians for many years. On the other hand, if the UN rejects the Palestinian request for recognition, we can expect a multitude of conflicts, terrorist acts, and wars to prevail between Israelis and Palestinians for many years -- perhaps even for decades and centuries!

Exclusive: Jackie Kennedy Disliked Catholics; Reveals in Book They Had Persecution Complexes

The Irish Central website reports today (September 10, 2011) that Jackie Kennedy was suspicious of Catholics, and believed many of them had persecution complexes.

She reveals her dislike of Catholics in a newly published book -- to be released to the public next week -- titled "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy," which has interviews she gave former Kennedy aide and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. soon after her husband was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

In the book, Jackie comments in one interview on the suspicious nature of her mother-in-law Rose Kennedy -- a devout Catholic -- and says she always demanded to know if someone was Catholic.

"There seems to be about all these Irish -- they always seem to have a sort of persecution thing about them, don't they?" Jackie asks.

Pope Relates British Riots to "Moral Relativism;" Urges Govt. Policies Based on "Enduring Values"

The Huffington Post website reports today (September 10, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI has linked last month's riots in England to the corrosive effects of "moral relativism," and warned that preserving social order requires government policies based on "enduring values."

Benedict made the remarks yesterday (September 9) to Britain's new Vatican ambassador, Nigel Baker, at a meeting in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.

The moral basis of government policies is "especially important in the light of events in England this summer," Benedict said in reference to the riots in England, which left five people dead and caused over $320 million in property damage.

The Pope called on government leaders to foster the "essential values of a healthy society, through the defense of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Survey Finds Americans Trust in Power of Prayer; 77 Percent Say Prayer Helps Heal Illness, Injury

The New American website reports today (September 9, 2011) that nearly 80 percent of likely American voters believe in the healing power of prayer, according to a recent poll conducted by Fox News.

The findings could be significant as a stable of mostly Christian Republican presidential candidates compete for the right to challenge Barak Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

A full 77 percent of Americans believe that "prayers can help someone heal from an injury or illness, while 20 percent don't believe that," reported Fox of its phone survey, conducted in late August. "The remaining 3 percent are unsure."

The survey also found that "women (82 percent) were more likely than men (71 percent) to believe in the healing power of prayer."

Exclusive: Jewish Leaders Slam Mel Gibson's Role; Movie Is Planned with Gibson as Judah Maccabee

The Hollywood Reporter website -- in an exclusive article -- reports today (September 9, 2011) that prominent Jewish leaders are furious at Mel Gibson and Warner Bros. over their planned movie based on the life of religious icon Judah Maccabee.

Rabbi Marvin Heir -- founder and dean of Los Angeles's Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance -- said, "Casting him as director or as the star of 'Judah Maccabee' is like casting Madoff to be head of the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Abraham Foxman -- national director of the Anti-Defamation League -- issued a statement to "The Hollywood Reporter" in response to Gibson's movie role: "Judah Maccabee deserves better. He is a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty. It would be a travesty to have his story told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views."

Gibson lost the respect of a plethora of Jews -- and rightfully so -- as a result of vulgar and hateful comments he made about Jews when a police officer arrested him for driving under the influence of alcohol in California several years ago.

Palestine Is Prepared for Its UN Membership Bid; Will Ask UN on Sept. 20 to Recognize It as a State

The Eurasia Review website reports today (September 9, 2011) that Palestinians took part in a campaign yesterday in support of their UN membership bid.

The so-called "National Campaign for Palestine: State 194" is part of the build-up to September 20, 2011, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas is expected to submit a formal request that the United Nations accept the state of Palestine as a member.

The PLO committee "affirms the need to continue at the next session of the UN, the process to obtain recognition of membership for a state of Palestine on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital," PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo said in a statement yesterday.

He added, "The Palestinian leadership believes that attaining this goal will encourage the relaunch of a serious peace process and new negotiations with the clear objective of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Huge Crane Topples at DC's National Cathedral; Was Used to Repair Damage from Aug. 23 Quake

The Ethics Daily website reports today (September 8, 2011) that a 500-foot crane toppled over next to the Washington National Cathedral yesterday, adding to the earthquake damage that the crane was brought in to fix.

The 500-ton crane crushed several cars and took part of the roof of the Herb Cottage -- a small building adjacent to the cathedral. No one was injured.

Before it fell, an operator was using the crane to raise materials to the church roof, where engineers are removing debris and stabilizing structures damaged by an earthquake that rocked the East Coast on August 23.

The cathedral's spires, flying buttresses, and other structures suffered considerable damage during the quake. Repairs are expected to take years to complete and to cost millions of dollars.

Abp. Chaput Takes Over Philly Archdiocese Today; Says "Cafeteria Catholics" Are Not Really Catholics

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports that Charles Chaput -- the archbishop who takes over the Philadelphia archdiocese today (September 8, 2011) -- is one of the Catholic Church's most outspoken conservatives.

Chaput, 66, said the church is not for so-called "Cafeteria Catholics" -- those who pick which doctrines they will follow and which ones they won't.

"If they don't believe what the church teaches, they're not really Catholic," Chaput said in an interview this week.

In recent times, Chaput has condemned the University of Notre Dame -- a Catholic university -- for bestowing an honorary doctorate on President Obama, who supports abortion rights, and has said that Catholic politicians with similar beliefs on abortion should not receive Holy Communion.

French Court Convicts Galliano of Anti-Semitism; Past Christian Dior Designer Gets No Prison Time

A Paris court convicted former Christian Dior designer John Galliano today (September 8, 2011) of making anti-Semitic insults in a bar -- but gave him only a suspended sentence because he apologized to the victims -- according to the New York Post website.

Galliano -- who did not attend the announcement of the verdict -- was given no prison time.

He was, however, ordered to pay $23,200 in court fees for the complainants -- three individuals and five anti-racism associations -- plus a symbolic $1.40 in damages to each one.

The accusations earlier this year cost Galliano, 50, his job at the luxury house and roiled the fashion world.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

COMMENTARY: Ukrainian Government Was Wrong in Destroying Historic Synagogue

The government of Ukraine this week demolished a 16th century synagogue.

While governments demolish buildings every day, what makes this demolition unusual is that the Ukrainian government acted illegally, because both Ukrainian and international laws had been passed to preserve this synagogue as a historic site.

The Golden Rose Synagogue -- which had been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998 -- was torn down in order to make room to build a hotel in the city of Lviv.

It is hard to believe that the government could not have found another site in Lviv on which to build this hotel.

In fact, one cannot help but wonder if the Ukrainian government intentionally targeted the Golden Rose Synagogue for destruction, because of its prejudice against Jews.

Although the demolition of this synagogue is now "water over the dam," it would behoove the residents of Lviv -- especially its Jewish citizens -- to scrutinize this situation. Moreover, a large fine on the Ukrainian government by UNESCO may be in order.

This situation still remains an enigma: Does a government have a right to destroy one of its buildings that it has agreed by international law to preserve because of its historical significance?

Trying to answer this question can be mind-boggling.

Clergyman in Ireland Confirms Civil Partnership; Evangelicals in Church of Ireland Express Sorrow

Evangelicals in the Church of Ireland expressed their sorrow today (September 7, 2011), after a senior minister confirmed he had entered into a civil partnership, according to the Christian Today website.

The Very Rev. Tom Gordon is the Dean of Leighlin Cathedral in County Carlow.

He told BBC Northern Ireland radio this week that the ceremony with his same-sex partner took place at a registry office last July.

Rev. Gordon is the first Anglican clergyman in Ireland to enter into a civil partnership.

Ground Zero to Have Prayer Despite Mayor's Edict; Clergy Plan Sept. 10 Prayer Service for 9/11 Victims

The Christian Newswire website reports today (September 7, 2011) that -- because New York City Mayor Bloomberg has refused to allow clergy or prayer at the tenth anniversary ceremonies of 9/11 -- faith leaders and clergy are planning a public prayer service at Ground Zero for Saturday, September 10.

Participants in the prayer service will meet in front of St. Paul's Chapel, 209 Broadway, at 10:00 a.m. and walk to Ground Zero.

The group feels it is imperative to have a public prayer witness at Ground Zero seeking God during the 9/11 Memorial Weekend.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney -- Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and a leader of the prayer service -- has contacted New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly through his attorney to help facilitate the permit process.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

16th Century Synagogue in Ukraine Is Demolished; Is Razed Despite Being Protected as a Historic Site

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (September 6, 2011) that the government of Ukraine has begun the allegedly illegal demolition of a 16th century synagogue in order to build a hotel.

The elaborate "Golden Rose Synagogue" -- a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998 in the city of Lviv -- is being torn down to construct a hotel for the European soccer championships.

The synagogue was partially burnt down by the Nazis in 1941 with Jewish residents trapped inside. The Nazis destroyed 42 other synagogues in Lviv -- which had a majority Jewish population -- in 1940.

The demolition is illegal under Ukrainian and international laws, which are designed to protect and preserve historic sites like the Golden Rose Synagogue.

Czech Woman's Shirt Calls for Romani Genocide; Faces Up to 3 Yrs. in Prison for Genocide Approval

The Prague Monitor website reports today (September 6, 2011) that Czech police have accused a woman -- who wore a T-shirt saying "Revive Hitler; Romanies to be gassed" -- during a march against Romanies held in the Czech Republic city of Varnsdorf on September 3.

The woman faces up to three years in prison for approval of genocide.

The march was organized by the Free Youth far-right group.

Several hundred people took part in the march, in reaction to two violent attacks by Romanies that occurred in August in the nearby towns of Novy Bor and Rumburk.

Dutch School Allowed to Ban Muslim Headscarves; Court Rules Cath. School Can Set Own Standards

The Dutch News website reports that a Catholic secondary school in Volendam, the Netherlands, is within its rights to ban pupils from wearing Islamic headscarves, as a result of an Amsterdam appeal court ruling today (September 6, 2011).

The school introduced the ban several months after Imane Mahssan had requested permission to wear a headscarf and had begun doing so. She was then banned from attending classes.

The girl's father took the case to the Equal Opportunity Commission, which ruled in the girl's favor.

The school ignored the Commission's ruling, prompting the girl's father to take the case to court. The court ruled that the school can set standards to uphold its own values.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Former NYC Worker Gets a 15-Year Jail Sentence; Stole $10M from Funds to Identify 9/11 Remains

The New York Daily News website reports today (September 5, 2011) that former New York City worker Natarajan Venkataram -- a native of India -- was sentenced to 15 years in jail for siphoning $10 million meant for identifying 9/11 world trade center (WTC) victims.

The city has recovered $7 million of the $10 million he and an accomplice stole.

The city medical examiner's office got millions of dollars from the feds to help identify the remains of nearly 3,000 victims.

Venkataram -- then a manager dealing with the medical examiner's computer system -- and his girlfriend, Rosa Abreu, siphoned off millions of dollars via shell companies and fake contract bids.

Abreu was sentenced to six years in jail.

West Bank Mosque Torched in Attack by Settlers; Torched after Israeli Forces Destroy Illegal Bldgs.

The Irish Times website reports that a West Bank mosque was set on fire today (September 5, 2011) in what appeared to be a revenge attack by settlers just hours after Israeli security forces destroyed buildings at an illegal settler outpost.

Worshipers arriving for morning prayers in the Palestinian village of Qusra, south of Nablus, found the mosque on fire.

One of the slogans in Hebrew sprayed on the walls read "Muhammad is a Pig."

No one claimed responsibility, but it is believed that militant Jewish settlers carried out the mosque attack.

Pope Tells Audience They Should Correct Sinners; Also Reminds Crowd of Power of Common Prayer

The Catholic Culture website reports today (September 5, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the prayer of prayer -- and the obligation for Christians to admonish sinners -- during his Angelus audience on Sunday, September 4.

Fraternal love, the Pope said, "involves a feeling of mutual responsibility," which sometimes requires speaking frankly to an acquaintance "to help him understand that what he has done is wrong."

The Pope also reminded the crowd -- gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence -- about the power of common prayer.

"Individual prayer is certainly indispensable," he said, "but the Lord gives assurances of His presence in communities which -- even if they are very small -- remain united and speak with one voice."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Anti-Nazi Objectors Clash with Police in Germany; More Than 270 Anti-Nazi Protesters Are Arrested

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (September 4, 2011) that violent clashes between police and left-wing extremists accompanied an anti neo-Nazi demonstration in Dortmund, Germany yesterday.

Some 1,500 left-wing demonstrators from across Germany tried to break through barriers that police had erected to keep them away from a march by neo-Nazis.

The annual march in Dortmund is one of the largest neo-Nazi marches in the country, with about 750 neo-Nazis taking part.

Police were pelted with stones and bottles -- as well as being targeted with pepper spray and fireworks -- by the left wing extremists. Officers used batons and water canons to break up the rioters, with more than 270 demonstrators arrested.

Exclusive: Israeli PM Sees No Need to Apologize; Says Israel Raided Turkish Flotilla for Self-Defense

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sees no need for Israel to apologize to Turkey for Israel's deadly raid on a Turkish-led flotilla last year that tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu told his cabinet today (September 4, 2011) -- in his first public remarks about the confrontation -- that Israel was defending "our civilians, our children, and our communities."

On September 3, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara would challenge Israel's blockade at the International Court of Justice this week.

On September 2, Turkey expelled Israel's envoy to Ankara and suspended military cooperation due to Israel's refusal to apologize for its flotilla raid. Nine Turkish activists were killed and dozens were wounded in the raid.

Mormon Men Waiting Longer before Marrying; Delay Marriage Due to Fin., Career or Ed. Reasons

The ASSIST News Service website reports today (September 4, 2011) that Mormon Church officials have become worried that Mormon men are waiting longer to get married, since marriage is an important tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Mormon Church leaders say Mormon men are postponing marriage either for financial, career, or educational concerns.

According to Mormon Church President Thomas Monson, "Men are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with their friends."

The median age for first marriage of Mormons in the U.S. is 28 for men and 26 for women.

Mormons believe that marriage in the temple is mandatory to reach the celestial -- or highest level -- of heaven.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

COMMENTARY: NYC Mayor Bloomberg Needs to Allow Prayer at 9/11 Ceremony

On September 11, 2011, a ceremony observing the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center will be held at Ground Zero in New York City.

Unfortunately, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided there will be no clergy or prayers at the upcoming ceremony.

Bloomberg, a secularist, said the ceremony -- instead of prayer -- will have a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical, and personal in nature.

But to have a memorial service ceremony without prayer does not provide the respect, love, and dignity that the hundreds of innocent victims of 9/11 deserve. The fact is that prayer can never be adequately replaced by a secular ceremony, because prayer relates to a higher authority.

That's why the Family Research Council has initiated a petition expressing the frustrations of a plethora of Americans who believe prayer should be part of the 9/11 ceremonies.

More than 55,000 people have already signed the petition, which urges Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his decision to exclude prayers and clergy.

The petition -- which is direct and emphatic -- tells Mayor Bloomberg, in part: "Your plan to exclude pastors and prayers from Ground Zero commemoration is not only offensive to the families of victims, but strangely overlooks the role that faith played in bringing healing to countless lives."

The petition also criticizes the New York mayor for inviting politicians -- rather than first responders, including the city's police and firefighters -- to the ceremony. It states: "This nation needs prayer more than politics."

For Mayor Bloomberg, secularism and politics appear to be more important than religion and prayer.

Nonetheless, Mayor Bloomberg needs to be mindful of the fact that he represents all of the people of New York City -- the vast majority of whom prefer to have prayers at the 9/11 tenth anniversary ceremony.

Consequently, the mayor needs to reconsider his decision to exclude prayers and clergy, and allow prayer to be part of the 9/11 ceremony. In the final analysis, Mayor Bloomberg has an obligation to carry out the wishes of the citizens of New York City that he represents -- even though these wishes may not be compatible with his own.

Vandals Mar Monument Dedicated to Polish Jews; Stone Marks WWII Spot Where Jews Were Burned

Vandals this week desecrated a monument marking the spot in Poland where hundreds of Jews were burned alive during World War II, scrawling "they were flammable" and a swastika on the memorial, according to the Associated Press website.

The government, Poland's Jewish community, and Holocaust survivors strongly condemned the attack on the site, which marks one of the most notorious cases in which local Poles collaborated with Nazis in killing Jews during the German wartime occupation.

The monument -- located in the town of Jedwabne -- honors the victims of July 10, 1941, when about 40 Poles hunted down the town's Jews, locked them up in a barn, and set it on fire, killing some 400 Jews.

Vandals used green paint to spray the symbols of a swastika and "SS" -- the name of an elite Nazi force -- on the monument, as well as the phrases "I don't apologize for Jedwabne" and "they were flammable."

Piotr Kadlcik -- the head of Poland's Jewish community -- called on authorities to crack down harder on anti-Semitic incidents, since similar incidents in Poland have been treated with too much leniency for many years.

Many Sign Petition for Prayer in 9/11 NY Service; Urge Bloomberg to Reconsider Secular Decision

More than 55,000 people -- upset with the decision to exclude clergy and prayer at New York City's 9/11 tenth anniversary commemoration service -- have signed a petition urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reconsider his decision, the Christian Post website reports today (September 3, 2011).

The petition -- created by the Family Research Council -- expresses the frustrations of many who believe prayer should be part of the 9/11 ceremonies.

"Your plan to exclude pastors and prayer from the Ground Zero commemoration is not only offensive to the families of victims, but strangely overlooks the role that faith played in bringing healing to countless lives," the petition notes.

The petition also criticizes Mayor Bloomberg, a secularist, for inviting politicians rather than first responders -- including the city's police and firefighters -- to the ceremony.

"This nation needs prayer more than politics. Please, Mr. Mayor, allow clergy and prayer at this ceremony," the letter concludes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Top Orthodox Christian Leaders Meet in Istanbul; Patriarch Kirill Not Invited Due to Dispute with EP

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (September 2, 2011) that religious leaders of the Orthodox Christian world met yesterday at the Fener Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul.

The Divine Liturgy yesterday morning was conducted by the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The ceremony was attended by the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, while Archbishop Hristostomos II of the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church -- known for his strong political statements regarding Turkey -- also partook in the ceremony.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia -- Russia's top religious leader -- was not invited to the Liturgy , according to sources with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP).

Much tension currently exists between the Fener Greek Patriarchy and Russian religious authorities. The Russian Orthodox Church -- representing some 200 million Orthodox Christians -- could become the epicenter of world Orthodoxy, unless the Fener Greek Patriarchate gains the ecumenical title.

Because Russia has more Orthodox Christians than all of the other nations in the world combined, it feels Moscow should have a much more important leadership role -- including being the ecumenical headquarters -- of the Orthodox Church.

Turkey Expels Israel Ambassador, Ends Mil. Ties; Says Israel Must Apologize for Its Raid on Flotilla

The Slate website reports that Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador today (September 2, 2011), and said it is cutting all military ties with its former strategic ally, because Israel has failed to apologize for its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year.

Turkey said that diplomatic ties between the two countries will not improve until Israel issues a formal apology for the raid that killed eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American.

A UN report on the incident -- just released today -- concluded that Israel's use of force on the flotilla was "excessive and unreasonable," but Israel's blockade on Gaza amounts to a "legitimate security measure."

One senior Israeli official said today that "relations between the two countries have been set back by years."

Czech President: Greeks Are "Lazy Ouzo Drinkers;" Greek PM Papandreou Says Epithet Is Offensive

The Prague Monitor website reports today (September 2, 2011) that Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus yesterday rejected the criticism of Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou for having recently called Greeks "lazy ouzo drinkers" in an interview with Czech daily Pravo.

Klaus told the paper Pravo, "Greece should be able to decide itself we want to sit for more hours in a shadow under cypresses, drinking ouzo, or we want to work more."

Papandreou -- obviously angry with Klaus's wild attack on Greeks -- told the Greek paper Kathimerini (Every Day) that Klaus offended Greeks with the statement that Greeks drink their ouzo and enjoy themselves, while Czechs are those who work hard.

Klaus made his critical statement because of the horrendous economic crisis that is currently prevailing in Greece, with the Greek government on the verge of bankruptcy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Anti-Israel Protest Disrupts UK Concert Series; Palestinian Group Shouting Forces Concert to End

The Washington Examiner website reports today (September 1, 2011) that protesters disrupted a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in one of Britain's most venerable concert series, and forced the BBC to pull the concert off the air.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign -- a pro-Palestinian group -- had called for the BBC to cancel the concert and urged people to boycott the event in protest.

Shouting and booing erupted last Thursday at London's Albert Hall just as conductor Zubin Mehta was about to lead the orchestra in Bruch's violin concerto.

The BBC said protesters interrupted the concert four times and that 30 people were removed by security throughout the event.

Bloomberg Bars Clergy, Prayers at 9/11 Ceremony; 10th Anniversary Memorial Service Will Be Secular

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided there will be no clergy or prayers at the upcoming ceremony observing the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, The New American website reports today (September 1, 2011).

Evelyn Erskine -- a spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg -- said the ceremony "was designed in coordination with 9/11 families with a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical, and personal in nature."

Rudy Washington -- an official in former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's administration -- said "to have a memorial service where there is no prayer... appears to be insanity to me. I feel like America has lost its way."

Female Bodyguards: Gaddafi, Sons Raped Them; Details May Go to International Criminal Court

The Europe News website reports today (September 1, 2011) that five women -- who were part of Muammar Gaddafi's elite team of female bodyguards -- have reportedly claimed that they were raped by the deposed Libyan leader.

The women told a Benghazi-based psychologist they were raped and abused by Gaddafi and his sons -- then tossed aside once the men became "bored" with them.

The details are reportedly being collected by psychologist Seham Sergewa for possible use by the International Criminal Court.

According to the Sunday Times of Malta, "The women would be first raped by the Libyan dictator and then passed on -- like used objects -- to one of his sons and eventually to high-ranking officials for more abuse before eventually being let go."