Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pepperdine Univ. in Calif. Rejects an LGBT Club; Says Club's Mission Is Not in Line with U's Belief

The New American website reports today (January 31, 2012) that homosexual activists are up in arms over a Christian university's rejection of an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Club.

Pepperdine University -- a California liberal arts school affiliated with the conservative Church of Christ denomination -- announced this month that it would not allow the homosexual support group Reach Out to meet on the college's campus.

Mark Davis -- the school's dean of students -- explained that the club's mission did not line up with the university's belief that sexual relations should be limited to a man and woman who are married to one another.

In response to the university's decision, several students have launched a petition drive insisting that university officials overturn the ban. As of today (January 31), the petition drive has gotten nearly 4,000 signatures of individuals calling on the university to rescind its ban of the homosexual group.

Clerk Stole $1M from NY Archdiocese Ed. Money; Anita Collins Is Sentenced to Community Service

An Archdiocese of New York clerk has been arrested on charges of manipulating the church's accounts payable system to steal more than one million dollars in education money, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 31, 2012).

Anita Collins wrote checks to herself or a relative, but recorded them as payments to legitimate vendors.

The archdiocese says its staff and outside auditors spotted the theft and alerted persecutors.

Collins -- who had been fired in December -- was sentenced to community service and five years' probation.

Several Destructive Incidents Occur in FYROM; Muslims Angry Christians Wore Masks at Carnival

The Balkan Insight website reports today (January 31, 2012) that arsonists last night set ablaze a Greek Orthodox Church near the city of Struga in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in the latest in a series of ethnic and faith-related incidents in the area.

Firefighters fought until midnight to douse the fire at St. Nicholas Church in the ethnically mixed village of Labunishta near Struga. Police today said the 200-year-old church was saved, but nearby facilities -- including the parish dining hall -- burned to the ground.

The recent trouble between FYROM's Christians and Muslims goes back to January 14 at the annual carnival in Vevcani, where Orthodox Christians wore masks supposedly representing Muslim believers, including women in burqas.

The masks -- deemed insulting to Muslims -- have sparked several destructive incidents in FYROM since January 14, including last night's church fire, the burning of a FYROM flag, and the stoning of a bus.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bin Laden Informer Afridi Charged with Treason; Is Pakistani Who Helped US Locate Osama Bin Laden

The Eurasia Review website reports today (January 30, 2012) that Dr. Shakil Afridi -- the Pakistani who helped U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six locate and kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- is facing treason charges in a Pakistani court for working with America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Dr. Afridi was accused of participating in a CIA-run operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed by a U.S. special forces unit.

A panel of Pakistani officials ruled that Dr. Afridi should be tried for treason -- a charge that could result in a death sentence if he is found guilty.

Dr. Afridi -- a confidential informant -- was arrested shortly after the operation carried out by U.S. special forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 1, 2011.

Islamic Parents Guilty of Murdering 3 Daughters; Killed Them for Violating Islamic Social Rules

The One News Now website reports that a jury in Canada yesterday (January 29, 2012) found an Afghan father, his wife, and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and a co-wife in what a judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor."

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder.

The three defendants declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainak, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammod, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

The bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario. Prosecutors said the defendants killed the three sisters because they violated Islamic rules on dress, dating, and socializing. Shafia's co-wife was killed because the polygamous relationship with Shafia -- if known by Canadian authorities -- could have resulted in their deportation from Canada.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

COMMENTARY: Anti-Semitism in Our Society Must Not Be Tolerated

A 19-year-old man in New Jersey was arrested last week and charged with two firebombings of New Jersey synagogues.

Anthony Graziano is being held on $5 million bail and could receive a sentence of up to 95 years in prison, if he is found guilty of the charges filed against him.

What is extremely frightening of the firebombing of the Rutherford, N.J. synagogue is that this synagogue also served as the rabbi's residence on the second floor. The rabbi, his wife, five children, and the rabbi's parents -- a total of nine people -- were sleeping when several Molotov cocktails were thrown into the synagogue in the early morning of January 11.

Fortunately, the rabbi was able to put out a firebomb in his bedroom -- suffering only minor burns in doing so -- thus preventing the death of several people.

The suspect of the firebombings has been described by police as a bitter anti-Semite who hates people of the Jewish faith.

Just what causes an individual to be so hateful and hurtful toward Jews -- especially when Jews have done no harm to that person -- is mind-boggling.

We can only attribute such sinful behavior by a 19-year-old man to be the result of a prejudicial upbringing by his parents, or a hateful view of Jews by his peer group.

In any event, this kind of destructive behavior against Jews -- or any group for that matter -- must not be tolerated in our society.

Indeed, anyone who is convicted of committing such a hateful and destructive crime must be sentenced to several years in prison.

PA Catholic Bishop Blasted for Hitler Comment; Said Hitler Would Love America's Public Schools

The Religion News website reports today (January 29, 2012) that the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is being criticized for saying Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini would love America's public school system, because it teaches all children just one set of beliefs.

Bishop Joseph McFadden -- in an effort to illustrate the lack of flexibility in America's public schools -- made the remark while advocating for school vouchers during a televised interview last week.

"In totalitarian governments, they would love our system," McFadden said. "This is what Hitler and Mussolini tried to establish: a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things."

McFadden's remarks sparked outrage from the area chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and a rebuke from the legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Three Topless Women Detained by Swiss Police; Part of Ukrainian Org. That Protests to Support the Poor

Three topless Ukrainian protesters were detained by Swiss police today (January 28, 2012) while trying to break into an invitation-only gathering of international CEOs and political leaders to call attention to the needs of the world's poor, according to the Associated Press website.

The Ukrainian women arrived at the entrance to the complex in the Swiss resort town of Davos, where the World Economic Forum was meeting.

With temperatures around freezing in the snow-filled town, they took off their tops and tried to climb over a fence before being detained. They had messages painted across their chests, such as "Poor, because of you" and "Gangsters party in Davos."

The women are among the hundreds of members of the popular Ukrainian organization called Femen, which has staged small, topless protests in various countries to highlight a range of issues, including oppression of political opposition. Women members of Femen protest while being topless, because they believe that doing so attracts more people to support their views.

B'nai B'rith Opposes German Media Prize Nominee; Says Mitri Raheb Views Christians Above Jews

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (January 28, 2012) that the Jewish organization B'nai B'rith International yesterday called for the committee of the prestigious German Media Prize to reconsider its recognition of Mitri Raheb, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem.

Raheb is due to be presented with the prize on February 24 in recognition of his creation of schools, health centers, and meeting places.

But B'nai B'rith -- a humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization -- said it was opposed to Raheb's views.

It said his views "echo the widely eschewed replacement theology maintaining that Christians have superseded Jews in the Divine plan and have inherited God's promises to Jews."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cabinet in the Netherlands Votes to Ban Burkas; Women Wearing Them to Be Subject to a $503 Fine

The cabinet of the Netherlands voted today (January 27, 2012) to ban the burkas and other face-covering garments from public places. Once the legislation is passed in parliament -- where it has a majority of votes for passage -- the Netherlands will become the third country in Europe to ban the Islamic garment, after France and Belgium.

The ban will apply to people wearing balaclavas and full-frontal motorbike helmets on the street as well as the estimated 100 burka wearers in the Netherlands.

Women wearing a burka or a full veil will be subject to a fine of 380 euros ($503).

Liesbeth Spies -- Dutch home affairs minister -- said after the cabinet vote today it is of "immense importance" that burkas are banned. She added people in an open society should communicate with each other openly.

Auschwitz Survivor Dies Today in Oswiecim, Poland; Today Is 67th Anniv. of Camp's Soviet Liberation

Kazimierz Smolen -- a 91-year-old Auschwitz survivor who became director of the memorial site after World War II -- died today (January 27, 2012) on the 67th anniversary of its liberation, according to the Associated Press website.

Smolen died in a hospital in Oswiecim -- the southern Polish town where Nazi Germany operated Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II -- said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.

Today (January 27) is the anniversary of the camp's 1945 liberation by Soviet troops. January 27 was designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005.

Two years after World War II ended, Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum -- and Smolen served as its director from 1955-1990.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

AK Airlines Ends Giving Prayer Cards with Meals; Some Customers Did Not Feel Rel. Was Appropriate

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 26, 2012) that Alaska Airlines will stop its 30-year tradition next week of passing out prayer cards to passengers with their flight meal.

"Some customers were comforted by the cards and some didn't feel religion was appropriate on the plane and preferred not to receive one," Alaskan Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.

The prayer cards feature messages from the Old Testament book of Psalms, and were started as a way to set the airline apart from competitors.

"Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice," CEO Bill Ayer and President Brad Tilden said in an email announcement yesterday.

Man Charged with Bombing Two NJ Synagogues; Anthony Graziano, 19, Hated People of Jewish Faith

The suspect in two firebombings of New Jersey synagogues this month is a bitter anti-Semite, who was so intent on sowing fear and destruction in the Jewish community that he rode his bike to both locations when he couldn't get access to a car, according to the Associated Press website.

Anthony Graziano, 19, of Lodi -- an unemployed recent high school graduate -- was charged with the January 11 attack on a Rutherford synagogue and the January 3 firebombing of a synagogue in Paramus. He is being held on $5 million bail.

The charges include nine counts of attempted murder, bias intimidation, arson, and aggravated arson.

The Rutherford attack -- which caused a fire in the residence of Rabbi Nosson Schuman -- could have caused serious injury or even death to the rabbi and his family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

COMMENTARY: Iowa State U. Was Wrong to Cancel Religious-Themed Business Course

Iowa State University (ISU) canceled a business management course it had planned to offer this semester, which would have used the Bible for insight into handling the vital issues faced in business.

The course -- titled "Application of Biblical Insight into the Management of Business/Organization" -- was scheduled to have been taught by a professor of finance, but was canceled because some faculty members felt that it was not appropriate to use the Bible as a guide. Consequently, the dean of ISU's school of business made the final decision to cancel this course.

We disagree with the decision to cancel this course.

We believe that the course would have been challenging to its students, in that it would have permitted students to relate to the business world from a Biblical perspective.

It is unfortunate for the ISU students -- who planned to take this course -- that it was canceled just before the semester began.

Indeed, such a course would have had a significant positive impact on its students, because it would have prepared them to enter the world of business with a better understanding of effective interpersonal relationships with their business colleagues and others than would otherwise be the case.

Saudi Woman Driver Defies Ban, Has Fatal Accident; Saudi Arabia Is Only Nation to Forbid Women Drivers

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) website reports today (January 25, 2012) that a Saudi woman -- who defied a driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia -- was hospitalized with several injuries and her passenger was killed when their car overturned in the northern Hael province on January 21.

Ultra-Muslim Saudi Arabia -- whose capital, Mecca, is the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed -- is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

Nonetheless, some women -- despite subjecting themselves to several lashings -- sneak behind the the wheel and drive in rural regions.

Women in Saudi Arabia are also required to wear a veil in public, and are not allowed to travel unless accompanied by their husbands or a close male relative.

Muslim Airline Pilot Fired for Terrorist Links; Tells Court He Was Fired Due to His Race, Rel.

The Europe News website reports that an airline pilot -- who was fired after links were discovered to two suspected terrorists -- told an employment tribunal today (January 25, 2012) that an "air of suspicion" had been created around him because of his race and religion.

The British man -- who cannot be named for legal reasons -- was suspended by the major airline after he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in October 2007.

His arrest led to the airline suspending his flight crew pass in order to carry out a full security review of his position, which led to his dismissal in October 2010.

The pilot -- who is claiming racial discrimination at the hearing in Havant, Hampshire -- said he believed that he was targeted because he was Asian and a Muslim.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turkish PM Erdogan Blasts French Genocide Bill; Bill Makes It a Crime to Deny Turkish Genocide

The France 24 website reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted French lawmakers today (January 24, 2012) for being "racist and discriminatory" after the Senate passed a bill that would outlaw denying the 1915 massacre of Armenians in Turkey amounted to genocide. Erdogan threatened France that Turkey will retaliate any way it can.

The bill -- which French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign into law soon -- includes the massacre of some one and one-half million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces in 1915.

Once the bill becomes a law, it will criminalize publicly denying that the mass killing of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces in 1915 was a deliberately organized genocide.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said the Senate vote -- which was passed by 127 to 86 -- was a day that "will be written in gold."

Three Convicted for Advocating Death for Gays; Muslim Men Handed Out Pamphlets Urging Death

The Ethics Daily website reports today (January 24, 2012) that -- in the first court case of its kind -- a British court has convicted three Muslim men of openly advocating the execution of gays.

Jurors in Derby, England on January 20 found Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed, and Razwan Javed guilty of trying to stir up hatred by handing out provocative pamphlets calling for homosexuals to be put to death.

The pamphlet carried quotations from Islamic texts saying that only through capital punishment could society be cleansed of homosexuality, "this immoral crime."

Conviction carries a maximum prison term of seven years. Sentencing is scheduled for February.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Israel to Warn US Only 12 Hours before Iran Attack; Does Not Trust Obama, Fears He'd Block Attack

The Mondoweiss website reports today (January 23, 2012) that Israel informed U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey -- during his visit to Israel over the weekend -- that it would not request U.S. authorization for an attack on Iran, and it would give only a 12-hour warning to the U.S. before launching such an attack.

According to a report in Britain's Sunday Times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not trust President Obama and believes Obama might do everything in his power to prevent an Israeli attack if informed in advance.

The Sunday Times added that Israel and the U.S. are trying to downplay the crisis, but the two countries appear to be on a collision course.

For example, Dempsey claimed that Israel and the U.S. had recently agreed to postpone a scheduled joint military exercise; however, the fact is (according to an Israeli defense source) that Israel was shocked at the U.S. postponement, as "the exercise had been planned for two years."

Turks March in Paris to Denounce Genocide Bill; Bill Sets Punishment for Denying Turkish Genocide

The Europe News website reports that thousands of Turks from across Europe marched through Paris today (January 23, 2012), denouncing a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide.

The Turks -- many waving their country's flag -- marched to the Senate, where the bill is being debated today, after passage in December in France's lower house.

The measure sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($56,793) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

France formally recognized the 1915 Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but provided no penalty for anyone refuting it.

Supreme Court Limits Police Use of a GPS Device; Rules Police Must 1st Obtain a Warrant to Use It

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (January 23, 2012) that police attachment of a GPS device to monitor a suspect's vehicle was a search protected by constitutional privacy rights, according to the Reuters website.

The ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration, which defended the use of global positioning system devices -- without a warrant and without a person's knowledge -- as a legal way to monitor a vehicle on public streets.

The justices unanimously ruled that police must first obtain a warrant to use a GPS device for an extended period of time to covertly follow a suspect.

The American Civil Liberties Union -- and other human rights-oriented organizations -- commended today's Supreme Court ruling, because it support an individual's rights against unreasonable and unlimited searches and seizures of evidence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Human Rights Watch Rips Egypt's Military Govt.; Says Mil. Govt. Ignores Laws, Is Worse Than Mubarak

The Global Post website reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) -- the prominent U.S.-based rights group -- released its annual report today (January 22, 2012) in Cairo, in a move its executive director said is meant to reflect the report's primary focus, with harsh words for Egypt's ruling generals one year after an Egyptian uprising.

"Egypt's military rule started off positively in terms of protecting the demonstrators and facilitating the departure of Mubarak," HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in Cairo.

Roth added: "But it has taken a very disturbing turn. What we've seen is a series of moves by the military to undermine the rule of law."

In the report, HRW says Egyptians are now "at greater risk of arbitrary arrest and trial before unfair military courts than during the (dictator) Mubarak era."

Afghan Calligrapher Makes World's Biggest Quran; 218 Pages Are 2.28 Meters by 1.55 Meters in Size

An Afghan calligrapher has created the world's biggest Holy Quran, after working on it for five years, the All Voices website reports today (January 22, 2012).

The pages are 2.28 meters by 1.55 meters in size, and the total weight of the Quran is 500kg (1102 pounds).

It has 218 pages of cloth and paper and is bound inside an embossed leather cover made from the skins of 21 goats. It cost about a half-million dollars to create.

It is now in the library of Afghanistan's cultural heritage and traditions in Kabul.

Indonesian Arrested for Not Believing in God; Faces Maximum 5 Years in Jail If Found Guilty

The Big News Network website reports today (January 22, 2012) that a 30-year-old Indonesian civil servant has been arrested on charges of blasphemy, after he created a Facebook page that said he did not believe in God.

The man -- identified as Alexander -- said he did not believe in angels, devils, heaven, and hell, as well as other myths.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail if found guilty.

Alexander's identity card says that Islam is his religion. More Muslims live in Indonesia than in any other country.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: Football Games Are Not the Proper Venue for Individual Prayer

A writer from Virginia this week wrote a journal article in which he compares Tim Tebow -- the Denver Broncos quarterback who prays on the sidelines at NFL games -- to the way the Pharisees prayed on street corners in order to gain attention.

He writes that "Jesus blasted the Pharisees for making a Hollywood production out of praying," and that Jesus would not approve of Tebow's praying in public.

We agree with this writer's viewpoint.

While Tebow must be commended for praying to God often, we feel that his praying should be a private matter between himself and God. In other words, Tebow should not be praying openly on a football field, where thousands of attendants -- as well as the other football players -- can observe him praying.

Jesus does not need -- nor does He want -- this kind of publicity, because a football game is not a venue designed to promote Christianity. Rather, it is a venue for players to play a game as well as they can -- with the objective of winning it -- and to provide the fans at the game and the television viewers with their playing expertise.

Football games are for the enjoyment and fun of a plethora of people; prayer is for a serious, spiritual, and personal relationship between an individual and God.

For a football player to pray openly at a football game -- before thousands of people -- can be viewed as being demeaning to the sanctity and personal nature of prayer. It can also be considered to be a player's desire to receive attention from thousands of fans.

In the final analysis, Tim Tebow needs to focus on his playing techniques -- and not pray publicly -- during football games, while he may pray as many times as he desires at his home, his church, and other appropriate places for worship.

Columnist Rips Tim Tebow for Praying at Games; Says Jesus Would Condemn Him Like He Condemned Pharisees

The Christian Post website reports today (January 21, 2012) that a liberal columnist from Virginia has written an article comparing Tim Tebow to the Pharisees that Jesus often had to contend with -- saying the way the Denver Broncos quarterback prays on the sidelines at NFL games is just as bad as the way Pharisees prayed on street corners to gain attention.

"Jesus Christ blasted the Pharisees for making a Hollywood production out of praying," Robert Paul Reyes wrote in an article that was published this week by The Student Operated Press.

Reyes says that every time Tebow prays on the football field he violates Jesus' command in Matthew 6:5, which says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Palestinian Head Abbas Receives Award in Russia; Is International Fund for Unity of Orthodox Peoples Award

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas today (January 21, 2012) was awarded the annual prize of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples. The award ceremony took place at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and was led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

This Orthodox award -- presented for the 11th time -- this year went to a Sunni Muslim. Indeed, Mahmoud Abbas can be described as the keeper of Orthodox values in the Middle East.

Valery Alekseev -- who heads the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples - said, "Mahmoud Abbas was picked from among other candidates for the award for being the guardian of Christian values in the Middle East. Mr. Abbas devotes a lot of his time to promoting Christian-Islamic dialogue and encouraging Orthodox pilgrimages and the Orthodox presence in the Holy Land."

Russia's cultural and humanitarian cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in recent years has resulted in reinstating Russian presence in the Middle East to its highest level in many decades.

Obama Admin. Orders Birth-Control Coverage; Non-Profit Orgs. Must Offer It to Women Employees

The Reuters website reports today (January 21, 2012) that the Obama administration ruled yesterday (January 20) that religiously-affiliated nonprofit organizations -- including hospitals and universities -- will have to offer birth-control coverage to women employees.

In a decision expected to draw harsh opposition from religious conservatives, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule requiring affiliated groups to provide a broad range of services -- from implanted contraceptive devices to the morning-after pill.

The government's decision does not apply to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and some religiously-affiliated schools, which remain exempt.

But it comes as a blow to the interests of some religious authorities. For example, the Roman Catholic Church considers contraception to be a sin.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Conservative Presbyterians Open New Denomination; Say PC (USA) Is Filled with Internal Conflicts

Conservative Presbyterians launched a new denomination yesterday (January 19, 2012), saying that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is too consumed by internal conflicts and bureaucracy to nurture healthy congregations, according to the Washington Post website.

"This 'new Reformed body' is intended to foster a new way of being the church, just as traditional, mainline denominations rose to serve in their day," wrote leaders of the new Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) of Presbyterians.

The creation of the ECO follows the PC (USA's) church-wide vote last year to lift its longtime ban on gay clergy.

The PC (USA) lost more than 500,000 members between 1998 and 2009 -- according to its church statistics -- and now has about two million members.

Religious-Themed Business Course Canceled at ISU; Would Have Used the Bible to Handle Bus. Issues

Iowa State University (ISU) has canceled a business management course that some faculty say would have advocated an evangelical Christian point of view and used a textbook that advised its readers against doing business with nonbelievers, the Huffington Post website reports today (January 20, 2012).

The course -- Application of Biblical Insight into the Management of Business/Organization -- was to be taught this semester by Roger Stover, a finance professor.

A description of the course says, "The goal of this seminar is to employ the Bible for insight into handling the vital issues faced in a business."

The course was canceled by ISU's dean of the college of business management, after some faculty members objected to it.

Czech Police Arrest Two Men for Robbing Tombs; Raided 70 Tombs Seeking Gold Teeth, Medals, Jewels

The Prague Daily Monitor website reports today (January 20, 2012) that Czech police have arrested two men suspected of robbing more than 70 graves in northern Bohemia.

The two men -- aged 48 and 38 -- mainly targeted older tombs in the region in search of gold teeth, medals, jewelry, and other relics.

They were arrested last Saturday night at a cemetery in Usti nad Labem in the north of the country, where they were raiding tombs.

Police also took the equipment the men used, including face masks, crowbars and other tools, as well as a short folding ladder that they used to descend into the tombs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NYPD to Use a Device to Detect Hidden Weapons; Electronic Frisking Tool Can See Through Clothes

The Yahoo News website reports today (January 19, 2012) that the Department of Defense and the New York Police Department (NYPD) are developing a remote controlled device that could detect if individuals are carrying concealed firearms or explosives.

The device can see through clothes, backpacks, and even walls from as far away as 75 feet.

The "electronic frisking" device uses electromagnetic energy waves and terahertz that bounce off metallic objects, sending back an image of suspected guns and explosives.

Donna Lieberman -- an official with the New York Civil Liberties Union -- said the device "is worrisome because it implicates privacy when the police department tells us that anytime we walk down the street we're going to be subject to a virtual pat down even though we're not suspected of doing anything wrong."

Two Catholic Midwives Refuse Abortion Cases; Tell Scotland Court Rel. Beliefs Oppose Abortion

Two Catholic midwives are testifying before Scotland's highest civil court that they are being forced to participate in abortions against both their consciences and the law, the Eurasia Review website reports today (January 19, 2012).

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood have been told by the state-run National Health Service in Glasgow that they are expected to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions.

In their January 17 petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the women explained that "they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offense against human life."

The case is currently being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) Is Created; New Org. Is Determined to Defend Free Societies

The Europe News website reports today (January 19, 2012) that the human rights organizations Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE) are merging to create a new global force determined to defend free societies globally: Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).

SIOA and SIOE are the foremost organizations in America and Europe dedicated to defending human rights, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and the freedom of speech against Islamic supremacist intimidation and attempts to bring elements of Sharia (Islamic Law) to the West.

At the helm of SION as its founding president is the internationally renowned human rights activist and executive director of SIOA, Pamela Geller.

Vice president is the bestselling author and Islam expert, Robert Spencer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

COMMENTARY: Female Feticide Is an Immoral Practice

Female feticide -- or choosing to abort female fetuses because of a preference for sons -- is a common practice in China, India, Korea, Vietnam, and several other Asian nations.

It is also practiced in Canada, and to a lesser degree, in the United States.

In an effort to diminish this practice, an editorial in this month's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) recommends that Canada should prohibit the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until after 30 weeks of pregnancy.

We agree with this CMAJ editorial. The fact is that a woman who carries a fetus 30 weeks or more is much more unlikely to have an abortion than a woman who carries a fetus for just two or three months.

Female feticide also is degrading to women, because it conveys an illogical message; namely, that a woman who gives birth to a son is luckier than a woman who gives birth to a daughter.

The fact is that a woman should be happy for being able to give birth to a child -- son or daughter -- and thank God for doing so.

Unfortunately, some women who are unable to give birth to a child "would give their right arm" to do so. Many women and men, who are not able to have a child, would be thrilled to be able to adopt a child -- male or female -- and have even gone as far away as Asia to do so.

Female feticide, then, must not be viewed as "a right" of a woman to abort as many fetuses as necessary in order to give birth to a son. In addition to being an immoral practice, female feticide -- as is the case with abortion in general -- must be considered an act of infanticide that seriously violates Christian doctrine.

In the final analysis, a woman must be extremely grateful to God for enabling her to give birth to a child -- male or female -- and to recognize that child as "a bundle of joy" that she will love and cherish for many years, and most likely for the rest of her life.

Rally in Cranston, RI Supports Prayer Banner; Judge Ruled High School Banner Violates Const.

The Providence Journal website reports today (January 18, 2012) that about 230 people packed the auditorium of a middle school in Cranston, Rhode Island last night -- singing "God Bless America" -- as members of the Cranston School Committee took their seats on stage.

The public meeting became a forum where students voiced their views about the meaning of a school prayer banner affixed to the wall of the auditorium at Cranston High School West.

A federal judge on January 12 ruled in favor of a 16-year-old student who sued the district on the grounds that the banner's display in her public high school violates the constitution.

Patrick McAssey, 17 -- a high school senior and president of the student council -- urged the school committee to appeal the judge's decision, saying "If we're gonna go down, let's go down fighting."

No decision was made to appeal the judge's decision by the school committee, which had met to discuss the school budget.

Amsterdam's Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Is Suspended; Signed Statement Saying Homosexuality Is Illness

The Dutch News website reports today (January 18, 2012) that Amsterdam's Orthodox Jewish community has suspended indefinitely Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag as its normal chief, because the New York-based rabbi signed a statement describing homosexuality as an "illness" that can be cured.

The declaration -- signed by 162 rabbis and mental health practitioners last year -- states that "homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle" and that "behaviors are changeable."

Rabbi Ralbag -- who lives in New York and visits the Netherlands once or twice a year to rule on legal matters -- signed the statement using all his official functions, including that of chief rabbi of Amsterdam.

The Orthodox Jewish community in Amsterdam said that it rejects Rabbi Ralbag's view on homosexuality. It added that homosexuals are welcome in the Amsterdam Jewish community.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Female Feticide Becomes an Issue in Canada; CMAJ: Don't Reveal Fetus's Gender for 1st 30 Weeks

Canada should prohibit disclosure of the sex of a fetus until after 30 weeks of pregnancy to combat female feticide -- which is practiced by some ethnic groups in Canada and the United States -- asserts an editorial in this month's CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The Eurasia Review website reports today (January 17, 2012) that female feticide -- that is, choosing to abort female fetuses because of a preference for sons -- is an issue in several Asian countries, including China, India, Korea, and Vietnam.

It is also practiced by some immigrants in Canada, contributing to a repugnant problem.

Dr. Rajendra Kale -- interim Editor-in-Chief of CMAJ -- said, "This evil devalues women. How can it be curbed? The solution is to postpone the disclosure of medically irrelevant information to women until after about 30 weeks of pregnancy."

Supreme Court Rejects Hearing NC Prayer Case; Lower Court Prohibited Prayer Before Meetings

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 17, 2012) that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to get involved over public prayer in North Carolina's Forsyth County -- thus allowing a lower court's decision to stand.

County officials used to begin commission meetings with prayer.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prayers given before the meetings were Christian, and therefore considered a government endorsement of a particular religion.

Mike Johnson -- the attorney who argued the county's case before the courts -- said he was surprised and disappointed at the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case. He added, "We believe that sometime soon, the Supreme Court will have to hear one of these cases to resolve the issue."

Germany Opens Univ. Dept. of Islamic Theology; Three Dept. Professors Selected as Devout Muslims

The Monsters and Critics website reports today (January 17, 2012) that Germany's Tuebingen University -- a public university where tuition is free -- opened the first university department of Islamic theology in Germany yesterday (January 16), with 36 students enrolled for bachelor's degrees.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel faced resistance from conservatives to funding the department, but argued that graduates would be the best antidote to self-taught "hate preachers."

Education Minister Annette Schavan -- herself a graduate in Catholic theology -- said the school was a "milestone for integration" of Muslims who make up 5 percent of Germany's population.

The three professors -- who will be teaching in the department -- had to satisfy an Islamic advisory council that they are devout Muslims.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jewish Man Arrested, Posted Swastikas on Doors; Family Business Dispute Drove Him to Harass Jews

A Jewish man was under arrest on hate crime charges today (January 16, 2012), accused of making anti-Semitic telephone calls to his mother and other elderly women, and putting swastikas on apartment doors, the Telegraph website reports.

A family business dispute drove David Haddad, 56, of Manhattan -- who is Jewish -- to make threatening phone calls to his mother, 80, and to two other women, ages 87 and 78, police said.

According to a police spokesman, "He said basically that all Jews should die and go to hell."

Haddad -- who was charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime -- also was accused of taping notes with anti-Semitic symbols including swastikas on five apartment doors and in the hallway of a building in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Polish Court Fines Singer Who Insulted the Bible; Said It "Was Written by Someone Drunk on Wine"

The One News Now website reports today (January 16, 2012) that a court in Poland slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible -- the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

Dorota Rabczewska -- a singer who uses the stage name Doda -- said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible "because it's hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs."

A Warsaw court today (January 16) ordered her to pay a fine of 5,000 zlotys ($1,450) for offending religious feelings.

The case come months after Adam Darski -- a death metal performer -- was acquitted by another Polish court for tearing a Bible during a 2007 performance. The court deemed his act an "artistic expression."

Imam Gets Life in Prison for Airport Terror Plot; Planned to Explode Fuel Tanks Under JFK Airport

The Europe News website reports today (January 16, 2012) that an imam and leader of the Shiite Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to attack a New York airport by exploding fuel tanks and fuel pipelines under the airport.

Kareem Ibrahim and several other co-conspirators believed the 2007 planned attack would cause extensive damage to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

They also believed the attack would hurt the New York economy and kill many people, officials said.

Ibrahim, 65, was convicted in May by a federal jury on multiple terrorism offenses after a four-week trial.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

UN Body Allows Sikhs to Wear Turbans in France; France Required Removal of Turbans for ID Photos

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (January 15, 2012) that a Sikh man in France has won the backing of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in his fight over religious headgear.

It said France was violating Sikhs' religious freedom by forcing them to remove their turbans when having photos taken for passports and ID cards.

Ranjit Singh, 76, said he had turned to the UN because he found the French policy disrespectful and unnecessary.

The ruling is not legally binding. France was asked to respond to the UN by March.

Only 13 Percent of Spain's Catholics Heed Faith; Poll Shows 14.7 Percent of Spaniards Are Atheists

The Catholic News Agency website reports today (January 15, 2012) that a new study -- conducted by the Center for Sociological Studies in Spain -- shows that despite over 70 percent of Spaniards identifying themselves as Catholics, only 13.6 percent say they practice their faith and attend church services on Sundays and holy days.

Of all those polled by the survey who say they are believers -- both Catholics and those of other religions -- 58.2 percent "almost never" attend church services.

Those who said they attend religious services "several times a year" came to 17.7 percent of the population, while those who practice their faith "once a month" was 7.3 percent.

The poll also showed that 14.7 percent of Spain's population was comprised of non-believers.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

COMMENTARY: Greece Needs to Make Changes for Its Economy to Improve

The Greek government is digging its own economic grave -- and has nobody to blame but itself -- for its extremely weak economy that may soon result in the nation's bankruptcy.

Despite the fact that Greece's economy is on the verge of collapsing, the Greek government this week added over a half-dozen additional categories to its list of recognized "disabilities." These additional "disabilities" include pedophiles, kleptomaniacs, compulsive gamblers, and pyromaniacs, among others.

The Greek government, in effect, has now added fuel to the fire by including this list of ridiculous "disabilities" for which Greeks may be eligible to receive periodical government financial assistance.

Undoubtedly, some Greeks -- perhaps even many -- will act out the role of being a kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, or other newly recognized "disabled" category, in order to receive payments from the financially-burdened government. This new "disability" categorization, then, will inevitably result in a lose-lose situation for the Greek government and Greece's economy.

In reality, Greece should be ending many of its socialist handouts, which were indeed responsible for getting the country in its present economic predicament.

The fact that Greece received several billions of euros in loans from both the International Monetary Fund and the European Union during the past year has not had a significant impact on Greece's economic recovery.

The Greek government needs to be emphatic and unyielding about withdrawing many of its costly socialist economic giveaways, and encouraging its citizens to work diligently for their money, in order to revive Greece's faultering economy. Then -- and only then -- will Greece's economy improve significantly and remain productively stable.

Greece Recognizes Pedophilia as a "Disability;" More "Disabilities" Help Wreck Greek Economy

The New American website reports today (January 14, 2012) that the government of Greece is being criticized for its decision to add some questionable categories to its list of recognized disabilities.

Disability groups in Greece were especially outraged over the government's decision to add pedophiles to its list of those that the state recognizes as "disabled" individuals. Other "disabled" categories added to the list were exhibitionists, kleptomaniacs, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, and sadomasochists.

Greece's Labor Ministry explained that the new "disabilities" were added for medical assessment and to determine who would receive financial assistance from the government.

Ironically, these additions to the government payments come as Greece is drowning in debt and attempting to stay afloat in an economy that is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Marriages of Foreign Gays in Canada Are Invalid; Affects Gays Who Could Not Marry in Homeland

The Washington Times website reports today (January 14, 2012) that the Canadian government is abruptly arguing that the same-sex marriages of many foreigners who wed in Canada are not valid -- a move that stunned the gay community and could affect thousands of couples.

In 2005, Canada became one of the first nations in the world to formally legalize gay marriages. Now, Canada says many -- if not all -- the unions involving foreign residents are invalid.

Ottawa made the argument in a court case where two lesbians -- one from England and the other from Florida -- sought a divorce after their 2005 Canadian marriage.

Ottawa says the 2005 marriage in the latest case "was not legally valid under Canadian law" because the women could not have lawfully wed in England or Florida.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Roman Catholic Priest Gets a 3-Year Prison Term; Admitted Embezzling $650,000 from Nev. Parish

A Roman Catholic priest today (January 13, 2012) was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to repay $650,000 he admitted embezzling from his northwest Las Vegas parish to support his gambling habit, according to the Associated Press website.

Monsignor Kevin McAulliffe, 59, looted parish votive candle, prayer, and gift shop funds for eight years.

"You have abused a position of trust, Mr. McAulliffe," U.S. District Judge James Mahan said in sentencing the former priest.

McAulliffe had asked the judge for leniency so he could make restitution, help others with gambling addictions, "and atone for what I have done."

Moscow Patriarchate Seeks Christian Pol. Parties; Would Enhance Orthodox Values in Political Life

The Spero Forum website reports today (January 13, 2012) that Moscow Patriarchate Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin -- head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations -- has proposed that Russia establish "Christian or Orthodox parties or in-party groups."

"The (Orthodox) Church is positive about the prospect of setting up Christian or Orthodox parties, but it won't provide them with exclusive support or bless them. The Church is for all, not for allies of a certain political force," Fr. Chaplin writes in the Orthodox Politics blog.

Kirill Frolov -- head of the Association of Orthodox Experts -- favors such a party, saying "Orthodox values would go to our political life."

On the other hand, Dmitry Oreshkin -- a political scientist -- finds Fr. Chaplin's proposal dangerous, because Russia is a multi-faith society and an Orthodox party could cause interfaith tensions. More than 70 percent of Russians consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians.

Judge: NJ Church Illegally Banned Gay Ceremony; Rules Pavilion Area Is a Public Space for Wedding

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 13, 2012) that a New Jersey judge has ruled that the Methodist Church violated a state law by refusing to allow a same-sex wedding ceremony on its property in 2007.

On January 12, Administrative Law Judge Solomon Metzger said the decision made by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated New Jersey's discrimination laws.

Metzger ruled the pavilion area -- where the couple wanted to hold the ceremony -- is a public space and is advertised as a wedding venue without any religious pre-conditions.

The church -- which may appeal the decision -- argued that the pavilion was an extension of its wedding ministry, but the judge rejected that argument.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perry's Dad Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Sermon; Had Said "Having Money Makes Jews Jealous"

The Associated Press website reports today (January 12, 2012) that a suburban Cleveland church -- where the father of pop star Katy Perry was a guest pastor and delivered an anti-Semitic sermon -- has released an apology in which he says he regrets his "hurtful and ugly language" regarding Jews.

Pastor Paul Endrei of the Church on the Rise in Westlake said the Rev. Keith Hudson -- Perry's father -- meant to compliment Jewish people's prosperity when he said "having money makes Jews jealous."

In the apology released yesterday, Hudson -- emphasizing that he is not an anti-Semite -- said, "I apologize for the hurt that I caused my Jewish friends."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center -- a Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles -- had earlier denounced Hudson's remarks as being anti-Semitic.

Sweden's Teachers Get OK to Ban Islamic Veils; Ban Limited to Safety Risks, Obstacle to Learning

The Europe News website reports today (January 12, 2012) that teachers in Swedish schools can -- in certain situations -- prohibit students from wearing Islamic veils that reveal only their eyes, Sweden's school agency has ruled.

The ban covers clothing that could hinder interaction between students and teachers, or which could pose a specific risk, such as in a laboratory.

However, a general ban on headscarves has not been approved.

Updated guidelines were issued on January 11 by the Swedish National Agency for Education. The guidance comes in response to a 2009 case in which two women sued an adult education center in Spanga -- a city north of Stockholm -- after they were banned from class for wearing niqabs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

COMMENTARY: UN Needs to Take Action Against Islamic Barbarism

A Somali woman -- who converted from Islam to Christianity -- was paraded before a cheering crowd of hundreds of people on December 22, 2011, and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a "foreign religion."

Sofia Osman -- a 28-year-old Christian from Janale City in Somalia -- had been taken into custody by Islamic extremist al Shabaab militants in November, and held for 30 days. The public whipping of 40 lashes was meant to mark her release.

Osman's whipping left her bleeding and unconscious. Fortunately, her family was able to take her to their home where she was able to recuperate.

We find this kind of physical torture to be barbaric and disgusting, and are surprised that it exists today in a supposedly civilized society.

Actually, Osman's decision to convert from Islam to Christianity four years ago was a personal decision, and one that did not deserve any punishment whatsoever by Somali Islamic extremists or any other Somalis for that matter.

Whether a person in Somalia -- or any other country -- chooses to be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, or any other faith must be accepted by that country's government as an individual's innate right to do so. A nation has no right, then, in dictating or trying to impose what an individual's religion must be.

We recommend that the United Nations Human Rights Organization investigates this barbaric act in Somalia, and implements punitive action -- such as sanctions and censure against Somalia -- in order to deter this kind of barbarism from occurring in Somalia or any other nation in the future.

NJ Synagogue Residence Firebombed This A.M.; Molotov Cocktails Ignite Rabbi's Rutherford Home

New Jersey law enforcement officials suspect that more than one person may be involved in a hate crime, after a synagogue where nine people were living was firebombed early this morning, the Associated Press website reports today (January 11, 2012).

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said several Molotov cocktails and other incindiary devices were thrown at a Rutherford home housing a synagogue on the first floor and the rabbi's residence on the second.

The rabbi, his wife, five children, and the rabbi's parents were sleeping. One device ignited in the rabbi's bedroom, and he suffered minor burns putting it out.

This is the fourth anti-Semitic incident to have occurred at a Jewish center or synagogue in northern New Jersey in recent weeks.

Coptic Egyptian Man on Trial for "Insulting Islam;" Posted Bearded Mickey, Veiled Minnie Cartoon

The Christian Post website reports today (January 11, 2012) that a Coptic Orthodox Christian -- who is a billionaire telecommunications mogul -- is on trial in Egypt over allegations of "blasphemy and insulting Islam."

Naguib Sawiris -- the man on trial -- posted a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse alongside a veiled Minnie Mouse. If convicted, Sawiris could face a year in prison.

"This is a religious agenda being acted out," said Dr. Carl Moeller of Open Doors -- a ministry that focuses on supporting persecuted Christians.

Fr. Bishoy Andrawes -- pastor at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C. -- said this is further proof that Christians in Egypt have it worse now than when dictator President Hosni Mubarak was in power.

Va. Judge Rules Against Break-Away Anglicans; Episcopal Church Owns Churches Anglicans Use

The Washington Post website reports today (January 11, 2012) that a Virginia judge has ruled against seven conservative congregations that broke away from the ultra-liberal Episcopal Church in 2006, rejecting their argument that they should be able to keep valuable church property that the national denomination also claims.

The 113-page ruling was handed down on January 10 by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows.

The seven congregations are part of a movement called the Anglican Church in North America, and all believe that they -- not the Episcopal Church -- represent true Anglicanism.

If they decide not to appeal yesterday's ruling, the seven congregations would have to vacate their churches.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Somali Woman Is Whipped for Leaving Islam; Christian Convert Given 40 Lashes, Left Bleeding

The Compass Direct website reports today (January 10, 2012) that a Somali woman -- who converted from Islam to Christianity -- was paraded before a cheering crowd last month and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a "foreign religion."

Sofia Osman -- a 28-year-old Christian from Janale City in Somalia -- had been taken into custody by Islamic extremists in November. Her public whipping was meant to mark her release from her month-long custody in al Shabaab camps.

She received 40 lashes on December 22, while jeered by hundreds of spectators. The whipping left her bleeding and unconscious.

She is now recovering from her whipping at her family's home.

Russians and Militant Muslims Clash in Chechnya; At Least Four Russians and Four Muslims Killed

The Europe News website reports today (January 10, 2012) that a clash between Russian troops and militants in the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya has left at least four Russian soldiers and four Muslim militants dead.

Chechnya -- although a republic -- is controlled by Russia, and has joined Russian troops in battling an Islamist insurgency.

Russia's interior minister said the firefight -- which occurred on January 8 in the Vedensky district of the Caucassus Mountains -- began when a well-equipped rebel base was discovered.

About 95 percent of Chechnya's population is Muslim, while more than 70 percent of Russia's population is Orthodox Christian.

Pope: Gay Marriage a Threat to Humanity's Future; Marriage of a Man and a Woman Solidifies Society

The Reuters website reports today (January 10, 2012) that Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday that gay marriage was a serious threat to the traditional family and undermined "the future of humanity itself."

The pope made the comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican.

He told the diplomats -- from some 180 countries -- that the education of children needed proper "settings" and that "pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman."

The pope added, "This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Michigan Pastor Has Tattoo Parlor in His Church; Says He Has It to Reach Out to His Parishioners

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (January 9, 2012) that a Michigan pastor has opened a tattoo parlor inside his church.

Rev. Steve Bentley says he is doing everything he can to reach out to the people who have never felt comfortable at a traditional house of worship.

Bentley's church, The Bridge, occupies 3,000 square feet inside a Flint Township shopping center.

Bentley -- who has two tattoos himself -- rejects criticism that a church is the wrong place for a tattoo parlor, calling it a "morally neutral" practice akin to having your ears pierced.

Feds Charge Ex-Kosovo Man in Fla. Terror Plot; Muslim Tried to Bring Terror to "Victims' Hearts"

A 25-year-old man from the former Yugoslavia was arrested on January 7 and charged with plotting a radical Islamic attack on crowded locations around Tampa, Florida with a car bomb, assault rifle, and other explosives, the Associated Press website reports today (January 9, 2012).

The U.S. Department of Justice said Sami Osmakac -- a naturalized American citizen born in Kosovo -- recorded an eight-minute video shortly before his arrest, explaining why he wanted to bring terror to his "victims' hearts" in the Tampa Bay area.

Osmakac said in the video that Muslim blood was more valuable than that of people who do not believe in Islam.

He added that he wanted "payback" for wrong that was done to Muslims.

Katy Perry's Father Launches Anti-Semitic Rant; "Have Some Money, Honey" Makes Jews Jealous

The (Jewish daily) Forward website reports today (January 9, 2012) that pop star Katy Perry's father -- a minister at an Ohio church -- ranted against Jews to hundreds of shocked worshipers during a Sunday sermon yesterday.

"You know how to make the Jew jealous? Have some money, honey," Keith Hudson, 63, said during a sermon at the Church on the Rise in Westlake.

"You go to L.A. and they own all the Rolex and diamond places. Walk down a part of L.A. where we live and it is so rich it smells," Hudson told the worshipers.

He added, "You ever smell rich? They are all Jews, hallelujah, Amen."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Atheist Party Becomes US Political Party; Is First Party Based on Belief God Does Not Exist

The Ethics Daily website reports today (January 8, 2012) that an American political party has developed with the word "atheist" in its name.

Troy Boyle -- a corporate legal representative from Elsmere, Kentucky -- founded the National Atheist Party (NAP) last March, which is believed to be the first American political party organized on the belief that God does not exist.

"We are convened with the idea that the Founding Fathers had it right. The separation of church and state, the establishment of the U.S. as a secular nation -- those two concepts are our watchwords," Boyle said.

Boyle, 45, says the NAP has 7,500 members and a chapter in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Canada Establishes a Religious Freedom Office; Says Rel. Freedom Is Part of Its Foreign Policy

Canada's government is establishing an office of religious freedom in its foreign affairs department, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 8, 2012).

Government leaders say they are committed to making the defense of religious freedom a major goal of Canada's foreign policy.

The initiative is partly due to the March 6, 2011 murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Pakistani minister for minority affairs. He was murdered for speaking out against Islamic blasphemy laws.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Bhatti -- shortly before his assassination -- and was impressed by his determination to fight for religious freedom despite the threats against his life.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

COMMENTARY: Dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Egypt Can Enhance Peace

Christian leaders in Egypt met this week, in an effort to determine how they could best conduct a dialogue with Islamic groups to reduce sectarian violence.

Pope Shenouda III -- Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church leader -- and Anglican Church leaders discussed ways they could begin "constructive dialogue" with Islamists.

The fact is that the Islamists'Muslim Brotherhood party recently won a majority of seats in Parliament. This Islamic victory could mean more problems for Christians living in Egypt, unless they are nipped in the bud.

About 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslims, while only nine percent are Coptic Christians.

We believe that a meeting should be held at least once a month between Christian and Islamic leaders. These meetings should focus on cooperative relationships between Egypt's two major faiths, and avoiding future conflicts.

Indeed, harmonious Christian-Muslim meetings -- accompanied by a meaningful dialogue -- may well result in friendly relationships between the two groups.

In the final analysis, these meetings with constructive dialogue will most likely reduce the hostility and violence between Christians and Muslims -- perhaps even lead to a rapprochement between the two groups -- and that is an accomplishment that all of Egypt can proudly experience.

Philly Archdiocese to Close 48 Catholic Schools; Due to Rising Ed. Costs, Smaller No. of Students

The Catholic Culture website reports today (January 7, 2012) that the Philadelphia archdiocese plans to close 48 Catholic schools, as part of a sweeping program designed to restore economic stability to an endangered parochial-school system.

Four Catholic high schools will be closed, and 44 primary schools will be closed or folded into other existing Catholic schools.

The closings were recommended by a blue-ribbon committee -- formed in December 2010 -- which said the changes were necessary because of steadily rising educational costs and a slowdown in student enrollment.

Regarding the school closings, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said, "Nostalgia for the past is a bad foundation if we want to think clearly and build creatively for the future."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Egypt's Christian Leaders Seek Islamic Dialogue; Believe Dialogue Can Reduce Sectarian Violence

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (January 6, 2012) that Christian leaders in Egypt have been meeting to discuss opening a dialogue with Islamic groups as a way of addressing sectarian violence.

Ahead of the Eastern Orthodox Christmas -- which is celebrated on January 7 -- His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church leader, met on January 5 with Anglican Church leaders.

Their discussion focused on how they could begin "constructive dialogue" with the Islamists, who have won a majority in Parliament.

The meeting of the Christian leaders was sparked by the victories of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party in the elections that began in Egypt on November 28, 2011.

NJ Corrupt Rabbi Sentenced to 5-Yr. Prison Term; Part of Million $ Scheme Involving Rel. Charities

The Associated Press website reports today (January 6, 2012) that a prominent New Jersey rabbi -- who admitted playing a role in a one million dollar money-laundering scheme involving religious charities -- was sentenced on January 4 in Trenton to five years in prison.

Eliahu Ben Haim -- a former Syrian Jewish rabbi in Deal, NJ -- was arrested in July 2009 in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe into international money-laundering and political corruption that netted 46 defendants.

Ben Haim, 60, pleaded guilty last year in Trenton to a money-laundering conspiracy count, admitting that he had used his network of religious charities to conceal more than a million dollars in illegal proceeds for a man who turned out to be a government informant.

That informant, Solomon Dwek, turned government cooperator following his own arrest in $50 million bank fraud.

Greek Group Rips Bill to Build Mosque in Athens; Bishop: It's a Disrespectful Anti-Christian Action

A group of Greeks -- which includes bishops, academics, and military officers -- has appealed against a parliamentary bill that will allow the construction of a mosque in Athens, the Europe News website reports today (January 6, 2012).

A petition submitted to the Council of State in December was signed by Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, as well as university professors, naval officers, and five residents of the area in which the mosque is planned to be built.

Seraphim said the bill constituted an anti-Christian action and described it as disrespectful to Christian martyrs.

Ninety-seven percent of Greece's population is comprised of Greek Orthodox Christians -- the highest percentage of Orthodox Christians residing in any country of the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

UK Christians Are Losing Ground to Nonbelievers; Govt. Poll Finds Christians Dropped by 7 Percent

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (January 5, 2012) that Christians in England and Wales are losing ground -- about as fast as nonbelievers are gaining it -- according to a new government-sponsored poll.

The British government's latest Citizenship Survey reports that in the five years leading up to 2010, the percentage of declared Christians in the region dropped by seven percent, although they held solid at 70 percent.

Meanwhile, the total of those declaring no religion climbed by six percent, to 21 percent over the same period.

It was the sixth such study since the Citizenship Survey was set up in 2001 by the British government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Pastor Files Lawsuit against KY Baptist Church; Claims Church Reassigned Him Due to His Race

The Religion News Service website reports today (January 5, 2012) that a Louisville-area pastor has filed a complaint against St. Stephen Baptist Church -- Kentucky's largest African-American congregation -- accusing the church of reassigning him because of his race.

Pastor Billy Hollins -- who is African-American -- worked for the church from 2001 until last August.

Hollins filed suit in November, saying he was reassigned from the church's satellite location in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 2007, after Senior Reverend Kevin Cosby told him the pastor in Jeffersonville needed to reflect that branch's growing Caucasian population.

Hollins also claims that he was underpaid by the church in worker's compensation payments, after he was involved in a work-related accident in 2010. He said that this led to the church's decision to let him go.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

COMMENTARY: Ultra-Orthodox Jews Must Respect Values of Other Jews

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel should be ashamed of themselves for dressing children in Nazi concentration camp-like uniforms and transporting them on the back of trucks during their protest in Jerusalem last Saturday night (December 31, 2011).

This ultra-Orthodox ploy -- which was designed to highlight Israel's secular media rejection of ultra-Orthodox traditions -- brought back sad memories to a plethora of Jews, who recalled the killing of some six million innocent Jews by German Nazis and their henchmen during World War II. About 200,000 aging survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel today.

Indeed, this was a wrong and disgusting approach for the ultra-Orthodox Jews to use, in order to convey that they are being oppressed in Israel today, just like all the Jews were oppressed in Nazi Germany.

The ultra-Orthodox protesters went so far in their protest to call the Israeli policemen Nazis, while they wore a yellow Star of David patch on their shirts with the word "Jude" -- German for Jew -- and even circulated flyers showing Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham depicted as Adolf Hitler.

The fact is that the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel -- who comprise only about 10 percent of Israel's population -- must respect the values and lifestyles of all religious affiliations in Israel, including the predominantly Reform and Conservative Jews.

It is unreasonable for ultra-Orthodox Jews -- who strictly adhere to the laws and ethics of the Torah -- to attempt to convince more liberal-oriented Jews to live according to their rigid beliefs and lifestyles. For example, they should not expect all Jews to segregate men and women on buses, sidewalks, and other public places, just because that is their religious belief.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, then, must not have the attitude, "It's my way or the highway," in their efforts to influence all Jews to adopt their religious beliefs.

Rather, ultra-Orthodox Jews should be allowed to live according to their religious beliefs in their own closely-knit communities, while -- at the same time -- not judging others, or attempting to impose their own religious preferences on other Jews.

Robertson: God Told Me Who Will Be President; God: Obama's Reelection Will Lead to Ruin of US

Pat Robertson -- the popular televangelist who shocked millions of Christians last year when he said it's all right for a person to get a divorce if his or her spouse has Alzheimer's -- now says that he has received a secret straight from God: He knows who the next president of the United States will be, according to the Huffington Post website.

"I think He showed me about the next president, but I'm not supposed to talk about that, so I'll keep you in the dark, but I think I know who it's going to be," Robertson said yesterday (January 3, 2012) on the Christian Broadcast Network's "700 Club" TV program.

According to Robertson, God does not support President Barack Obama's agenda and says that only "overwhelming prayer" can bring a new leader who will stop the United States from "disintegrating."

Robertson also said yesterday that God told him the nation's downfall would be triggered by an economic collapse. He added that God told him this would come about if Obama was elected to a second term as president.

"And God said this is not My judgment, they bring it upon themselves," Robertson explained.

Calif. Catholic Bishop Has Two Teenage Children; Pope Okays Bishop Gabino Zavala's Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the early resignation of a Los Angeles bishop who recently acknowledged that he is the father of two teenagers, the Associated Press website reports today (January 4, 2012).

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned today under the code of canon law that lets bishops step down earlier than normal retirement age of 75, if they're sick or for some other reason that makes them unfit for office.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said the archdiocese has offered spiritual and financial aid to help Zavala's children with college costs.

Roman Catholic priests are required to be celibate, although priests of the Greek Catholic Church can be married, and married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism can become Catholic priests.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Man in Sicily Prefers Jail to Staying with Monks; Flees Halfway House Run by Monks to Go to Jail

The Life In Italy website reports today (January 3, 2011) that a criminal has fled a halfway house run by a particularly austere order of monks for the second time in just over a month, saying he prefers life in jail.

"Prison is better than the Santa Maria degli Angeli community home," David Catalano told police last night.

Catalano, 31, first fled the home near Enna in eastern Sicily on November 21, but was ordered back there.

The petty criminal has now been granted his wish and is in a local jail.

Six French Women Were Fined for Wearing Veils; France Banned Veil in April to Limit Radical Islam

France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant says that since a ban on face-covering Islamic veils took effect last April, only six women have been convicted and fined, the Washington Post website reports today (January 3, 2012).

Controversy surrounded the French law. Muslim leaders say that it stigmatizes all followers of Islam.

Gueant says police cited a total of 237 women, but only six were convicted. He was surprised that nearly a quarter of the women police questioned had converted to Islam.

Backers say the law is aimed at ensuring France's secular values and gender equality, and nipping radical Islam in the bud.

Vandals Damage Mosques in NYC and Quebec; Viewed by Police as Hate Crimes against Muslims

The Slate website reports today (January 3, 2012) that police in Queens, New York believe that an arson attack on January 1 on the Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center -- which houses a prominent Shiite Muslim mosque -- was a hate crime.

About 80 people were in the Islamic Center at the time of the attack. They quickly stomped out the fire, which was the result of two or three Molotov cocktails thrown at the building.

No one was hurt in the attack, and damage was minimal.

Meanwhile, an attack on a mosque in Quebec, Canada over the weekend -- in which vandals smashed windows and attempted to set two cars on fire -- has the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for a hate crime investigation.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Only Women In Saudi Arabia Can Sell Lingerie; Country's Rel. Radicals Were Opposed to the Idea

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (January 2, 2012) that Saudi Arabia will begin enforcing a law this week that allows only women to work in lingerie and apparel stores, despite disapproval from the country's top cleric.

The 2006 law -- which bans men from working in female apparel and cosmetic stores -- has never been put into effect, mainly because of the view of hard-liners in the religious establishment who oppose the idea of women working where men and women congregate together, like malls.

Saudi women -- tired of men buying their underwear -- have been boycotting lingerie stores to pressure them to employ women.

The government's decision to enforce the law goes into effect on January 5, 2012.

Worcester Diocese Wants Priest to Be Defrocked; Rev. Lowe Dongor Viewed Images of Naked Girls

A Roman Catholic diocese in Massachusetts has asked the Vatican to defrock a priest who is facing charges of possessing child pornography and stealing from his parish.

Bishop Robert McManus of the Worcester Diocese has asked the Pope to defrock the Rev. Lowe Dongor, the Huffington Post website reports today (January 2, 2012).

Authorities say that images of preteen naked girls were found on Dongor's computer. He is also accused of stealing $40 to $60 from St. Joseph parish in Fitchburg on several occasions.

It is believed that Dongor has fled to his native Philippines.

Columbia U. Offers "Occupy Wall Street" Course; To Be a Full-Credit Course in Anthropology Dept.

The Raw Story website reports today (January 2, 2012) that Columbia University's anthropology department will offer a full-credit course about the national and global "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations beginning this semester, titled "Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement."

The course will be taught by Dr. Hannah Appel, who said that she has been heavily involved in the movement, including camping out at Zuccotti Park.

Appel said she would be as impartial as possible, despite her close ties to the protests.

She added, "Inevitably, my experience will color the way I teach. But I feel equipped to teach objectively. It's best to be critical of the things we hold most sacred."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pope Names Former Episcopal Bishop to U.S. Post; Rev. Jeffrey Steenson to Head National Ordinariate

Pope Benedict XVI named a married former Episcopal bishop today (January 1, 2012) to head the first U.S. organizational structure for disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians who want to join the Roman Catholic Church, the Associated Press website reports.

The Rev. Jeffrey Neil Steenson -- a father of three and a Catholic convert -- will lead the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the equivalent of a diocese, that will be based in Houston, Texas, but will operate nationally.

The Vatican created the first such ordinariate in Britain last year. Other ordinariates are being considered in Australia and Canada.

Steenson stepped down in 2007 as the Episcopal Bishop of Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after the Episcopal Church elected the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Protesters Wear Nazi Garb; Protest in Jerusalem to Promote Their Way of Life

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (January 1, 2012) that Israeli leaders criticized a haredi Orthodox demonstration in which protesters wore yellow stars to indicate that they are being oppressed in Israel like the Jews were in Nazi Germany.

More than 1,000 haredi Orthodox Jewish protesters gathered in Jerusalem on New Year's eve to protest what they described as persecution against their way of life, including separation of men and women.

Many of the protesters wore yellow stars with the word "Jude" written on them, using Holocaust imagery to hammer home their point. Young haredi Orthodox children were also brought on a makeshift stage wearing striped prison garb along with their yellow stars.

Elan Steinberg -- vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants -- said, in a statement: "We who survived and witnessed these Nazi crimes are particularly offended that demonstrators so blithely used children in their public outrage. They have insulted the memory of all Jewish victims, including those who were ultra-Orthodox."