Saturday, March 31, 2012

COMMENTARY: Vandy Catholic Group Should Remain on Vanderbilt University Campus

Vandy Catholic -- a student group with some 500 members at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee -- decided this week that it will not agree with the school's new nondiscrimination policy, and will be leaving the campus after the current school year.

An organization dedicated to Catholic doctrine and teachings, Vandy Catholic is opposed to Vanderbilt's nondiscrimination policy, because it requires all organizations at the school to be open to all students, regardless of their religious or atheistic beliefs. It also requires organizations to allow all its members -- regardless of religion -- to seek and hold a leadership position.

Religious groups at Vanderbilt used to have an exemption from the university's nondiscrimination policy, but Vanderbilt has ended that exemption. Vanderbilt's new policy is believed to have been sparked by a Christian group expelling a gay member.

We believe that Vanderbilt has made the correct decision in allowing all students to be members of a college group, regardless of their religious or other preference. Indeed, it is this kind of freedom, acceptance, and diversion that helps to make a university a viable academic center with its freedom of expression and diverse ideas.

On the other hand, for a Catholic club to refuse membership -- or a leadership position -- of a non-Catholic student pervades an environment of arrogance, discrimination, and narrow-mindedness that is contrary to the purpose and empowerment of a great university.

Consequently, we believe that -- despite its disagreement with Vanderbilt's nondiscrimination policy -- it would behoove the Vandy Catholic group to remain on the Vanderbilt campus.

Cuba Declares Next Week's Good Friday a Holiday; Pope Benedict Requested Cuba Do So During Visit

The Reuters website reports that Cuba today (March 31, 2012) declared next week's Good Friday as a holiday in recognition of a request by Pope Benedict XVI and his "transcendental visit" to the island this week.

The communist government will decide later whether to make Good Friday -- the day Christians commemorate Christ's death on the cross -- a permanent holiday, the state media said. This year, it will be celebrated on April 6.

Benedict requested the holiday -- part of Easter celebrations -- in a meeting last Tuesday in Havana with President Raul Castro, the Vatican said.

After Cuba's 1959 revolution, then leader Fidel Castro -- Raul Castro's older brother -- ended religious holidays in Cuba as part of the transformation to communism. In 1998, Fidel Castro reinstated Christmas as a holiday in Cuba to honor a request by then Pope John Paul, who visited Cuba that year.

Catholic Group Will Leave Vanderbilt U.This Year; Disagrees with VU's New Nondiscrimination Policy

The Blaze website reports today (March 31, 2012) that Vanderbilt University's nondiscrimination policy that requires campus Christian groups to allow nonbelievers to serve in leadership roles has resulted in Vanderbilt Catholic -- one of the largest faith clubs at the school -- to announce that it will not comply with the new policy.

The Catholic group's decision will mean that -- as of the end of the school year -- it will no longer be an official university group.

The dispute between Vanderbilt -- which is located in Nashville, Tennessee -- and its religious groups began after a Christian fraternity expelled a gay member. That led the school to ensure that all student groups comply with its nondiscrimination policy.

Under Vanderbilt's new policy, all students should be allowed to be members of campus groups. Moreover, every individual -- regardless of belief -- should be allowed to run for office.

Carter Urges Democrats Compromise on Abortion; Says It Would Return Republicans Who Left Party

The Washington Times website reports today (March 31, 2012) that former President Jimmy Carter said he believes the Democratic Party should moderate its position on abortion, which it currently supports without limits and funded at taxpayer expense.

Carter emphasized that toning down the stridently pro-abortion position would help win back Republicans who abandoned the Democrats because of abortion and other liberal social positions.

He said, "I've signed a public letter calling for the Democratic Party at the next convention to espouse my position on abortion, which is to minimize the need requirement for abortion, and limit it only to women whose lives are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gravestone of Adolf Hitler's Parents Taken Away; It Had Become a Shrine in Austria for Neo-Nazis

The Austrian Times website reports today (March 30, 2012) that the gravestone of Adolf Hitler's parents has been removed, because it had become a shrine for neo-Nazis.

Last year, a vase with the word "unvergessen" -- unforgotten -- was left on the grave, with one of the letters drawn as the double lightning flashes of the Nazi leader's dreaded SS (storm trooper) regiments.

Another visitor in 2009 hung a plaque on the grave, marked "120," indicating the 120 years since Hitler was born in 1889 in the Austrian village of Braunau am Inn.

Relatives of Alois Hitler and his wife Klara -- who died in 1903 and 1907 respectively -- agreed to the dissolution of the grave in St. Michael's Churchyard, authorities in Leonding, Austria said.

Turkey Decides to Reopen Former Halki Seminary; PM Erdogan Tells Pres. Obama Turkey Will Do It

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (March 30, 2012) that Turkey has decided to reopen a former Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off the coast of Istanbul, according to a statement made by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"I express my congratulations to the prime minister (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) for his efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities. I am very pleased to hear his decision to reopen Halki Seminary on Heybeliada," Obama stated following a private talk with Erdogan on March 25.

The two leaders held wide-ranging talks covering Syria, Iran, the fight against terrorism, and protection of minorities on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

Turkey was listed in a 2012 U.S. report on religious freedoms as being one of the world's worst violators of religious freedoms. The report caused widespread outrage among Turkish politicians.

France Arrests 17 People in Raids at Dawn Today; Sarkozy: "Raids Connected to Islamist Radicalism"

The France 24 website reports that police in France arrested at least 17 people at dawn today (March 30, 2012) over suspected links to militant Islamist circles in several cities across the country, including Nantes, Le Mans, Toulouse, and suburbs of Paris.

Cedric Delage -- the Toulouse regional secretary for the French police union, USNA-Police -- said the raids were conducted "to look for groups or individuals who may be dangerous to the French state."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who ordered a crackdown on radical Islamists following the recent deadly Toulouse shootings -- said only that "the raids are in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism."

Today's arrests come a day after Mohamed Merah -- the gunman who killed seven people in southwest France -- was buried in Toulouse, since his native Algeria refused to allow him to be buried in that nation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dalai Lama Wins Templeton Prize in Science, Rel.; Gets $1.7M Award for Harmony of World Religions

The USA Today website reports that the Dalai Lama -- a Buddhist monk and perhaps the world's most famous contemporary voice for non-violence and compassion -- was named the winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize today (March 29, 2012).

The annual honor -- which comes with a $1.7 million award -- goes to the leading voices who address spiritual questions by drawing on science and religion.

Created by the late Sir John Templeton -- international investor and philanthropist -- the prize was announced by his son and successor at the Templeton Foundation, John Templeton, Jr.

In a press release today, Templeton cites the Dalai Lama as "an incomparable global voice for universal ethics, non-violence, and harmony among world religions."

Frankfurt Elects Its First Jewish Mayor Since 1933; Many Russian Jews Moved to Frankfurt After 1991

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (March 29, 2012) that the German city of Frankfurt has elected its first Jewish mayor since the pre-Hitler era in 1933 -- and only its second in history.

In the March 25 elections, Peter Feldmann -- a 53-year-old economist and political scientist -- won with 57 percent of the vote.

Feldmann -- the former head of a home for seniors -- takes the helm of a city with some 650,000 inhabitants and Germany's fourth largest Jewish population.

Today, Frankfurt has a Jewish population of about 7,000. Most of the Jews have come to Frankfurt from Russia, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Israel to Deny Its Forces a Break During Passover; Mideast Tensions Require Full Capacity of Military

The Blaze website reports today (March 29, 2012) that members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will not be enjoying much time off -- as they usually do -- during Passover, because tensions in the Middle East have become extremely high in recent weeks.

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has ordered that all IDF units cancel the break this year that is traditionally granted. Every unit will operate to its full capacity throughout Passover -- something that has not been done for many years.

This sudden decision -- made only a week before Passover begins -- comes amid rumors of an Israeli strike on Iran, in order to cripple its nearly-completed nuclear facilities.

The decision may also have been made to ensure that Israel is well-prepared to defend itself of an attack during Passover. It brings back memories of some 40 years ago, when Palestinians made an unprovoked and unexpected attack on an "off guard" Israel during the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

COMMENTARY: Scholastic Assessment Test Cheating Scheme Is a Stigma for American Education

This week, it was revealed that at least 20 -- and perhaps as many as 50 -- students in New York City were involved in a cheating scheme, in which high school students had others secretly taking the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) for them.

Some of those taking the SAT for the high school students were paid as much as $3,500 for doing so, according to the Nassau County district attorney.

As a result of this testing scandal, students who take college entrance exams now will be required to submit photo IDs with their applications.

This is a sad situation, not only for the students involved, but also for their parents, and for the American educational process in general. Obviously, when high school students are paying up to $3,500 to others for taking their SATs, their parents are providing them with this kind of money, indicating that these parents are well-aware of their children's SAT scheme.

What has become of America's educational system, along with the values -- including honesty -- that it is expected to instill in our students?

Are we now allowing cheating in our society because we believe it is all right for us to achieve a goal that we could not otherwise achieve? Moreover, are these students' parents -- who should know better -- not just as guilty as their children for supporting such a criminal scheme?

We have heard the argument that high school students are "under a lot of pressure" to be accepted by a college today. Nonetheless, that argument does not justify students paying others to take their SATs, so they can be accepted by a college.

The fact is that high school students should do the best they can on the SAT, and hopefully, they will be accepted at one or more of the several colleges to which they applied.

If a high school senior is not accepted at a college, he or she can perhaps attend a community (2-year) college. After two years of studying at a community college, the student can then transfer to a four-year college.

Another option is for high school seniors to join the work force after graduating, and to attend a college one or two nights each week, in order to earn a degree in a continuing education program. These programs tend to have lower admission requirements than full-time day college programs.

In any event, these are viable options for attending college that some high school graduates might want to pursue.

Most importantly, they are options that are honest and law-abiding -- unlike the dishonest and criminal SAT cheating scheme.

Pope Meets with Raul and Fidel Castro in Cuba; Urges Com. Govt. to Allow Church to Teach Rel.

Pope Benedict XVI urged Cubans today (March 28, 2012) to search for "authentic freedom," and wound up his trip to Cuba with a chat with the communist country's revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, according to the Reuters website.

The two octogenarians spoke for about a half-hour in the Vatican embassy, after the pope celebrated an open-air mass for a crowd estimated by the Vatican at some 300,000 people in Havana's Revolutionary Square.

Benedict -- who said last week that communism no longer works in Cuba -- pressed the government to let the Catholic Church teach religion in schools and universities.

In talks yesterday with Cuban President Raul Castro -- Fidel's younger brother -- the pope urged a greater role for the Church and asked the Cuban government to consider making Good Friday a national holiday in the communist country. Both Castro brothers were educated by Jesuits, the worldwide Catholic order.

Mom Who Drowned Her 5 Kids to Attend Church; Church Accepts Andrea Yates for Sunday Services

The Yahoo News website reports today (March 28, 2012) that Andrea Yates -- the Houston mother who drowned her five young children one-by-one in a bathtub in 2001 -- might soon be allowed to leave the state psychiatric hospital where she is being treated for mental illness, in order to attend church services.

"She's been approved by a certain church to attend Sunday services," Yates' attorney George Parnham said. He refused to name the church.

Parnham said he expects doctors at Kerrville State Hospital to file a letter to the state district court within 10 days, recommending that Yates be granted a two-hour pass to attend church on Sundays -- as a first step toward a permanent release.

"I hope that little by little she will adapt to the outside world by taking baby steps," he added.

New Poll Finds Miss. to Be the Most Rel. US State; Also Finds Vt. and N.H. to Be the Least Rel. States

The Gallup website reports today (March 28, 2012) that a new poll shows that Mississippi is the most religious U.S. state.

At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of five states -- along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska -- where less than 30 percent of all residents are very religious.

Gallup classifies 40 percent of Americans nationwide as very religious, because they attend church services every -- or almost every -- week.

Another 32 percent of Americans are nonreligious, while the remaining 28 percent of Americans are moderately religious, in that they say religion is important, but they do not attend services regularly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photo IDs Are Now Required for Taking the SAT; NYC Students Paid $3,500 for Others to Take SAT

The Washington Post website reports that students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to submit photo IDs with their applications -- a key security upgrade -- as a result of a widespread cheating scandal at a number of high schools on Long Island, a prosecutor and testing officials announced today (March 27, 2012).

The security change is one of a number of initiatives following the arrest of 20 current or former high school students accused in the cheating scheme.

Kathleen Rice -- Nassau County District Attorney -- said some of the students were paid as much as $3,500 to stand in for other students taking the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test), a key barometer for most American colleges in determining student admissions.

Rice added that some 50 students were likely involved in the scheme, but she only had enough evidence to arrest 20. The cases against the 20 students are still pending.

Atheists Sue PA Lawmakers for "Year of the Bible;" Say Resolution Endorses "State-Sponsored Rel."

The Washington Times website reports today (March 27, 2012) that a national atheist and agnostic group is suing Pennsylvania lawmakers for passing a resolution that declares 2012 as "The Year of the Bible."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, arguing that Pennsylvania House's declaration is unconstitutional.

The resolution -- which was authored by state Rep. Rick Saccone -- passed unanimously in January.

The lawsuit names Saccone as one of three plaintiffs, and claims the resolution is tantamount to the state endorsing "state-sponsored religion."

Vatican OKs "Rite for Blessing Child in the Womb;" Blessing Backs Respect for Human Life in Society

The California Catholic Daily website reports today (March 27, 2012) that the Vatican has approved the publication of the "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb," which will be printed in English and Spanish in a combined booklet, and should be available for parishes by Mothers' Day (May 13).

"I'm impressed with the beauty of this blessing for human life in the womb," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

He added, "I can think of no better day to announce this news than on the feast of the Annunciation, when we remember Mary's 'yes' to God and the incarnation of that child in her womb that saved the world."

The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Live Mike Records Obama on Missile Defense; Tells Russian Pres. "After Election" He Can Help

The Slate website reports today (March 26, 2012) that President Obama -- not realizing a microphone was recording what he was saying -- told Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that a compromise over a contentious missile defense system in Europe could be reached after the 2012 U.S. presidential elections.

"This can be solved, but it is important for him to give me space," Obama said, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama added, "After my election, I have more flexibility."

Obama's comments tend to convey that he intends to become more autocratic -- and perhaps more independent of Congress -- after the U.S. presidential election is held in November.

About six months ago -- in another incident in which he did not realize a microphone was turned on -- President Obama told French President Nicolas Sarkozy, "You're fed up with him (that is, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), but I have to deal with him even more often than you do."

DSK Is Now Charged with Prostitution Ring Role; Investigating Judges Grill Him for Several Hours

A lawyer for Dominique Strauss-Kahn says that the former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been handed preliminary charges alleging he was involved in a French prostitution ring, the Associated Press website reports today (March 26, 2012).

Investigating judges questioned Strauss-Kahn for several hours today.

Richard Malka -- Strauss-Khan's lawyer -- told reporters that Strauss-Kahn was accused of procuring prostitutes and involvement in an "organized gang," but Strauss-Kahn denies any wrongdoing.

In France, preliminary charges mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed, but allow more time for investigation. Last year, Strauss-Kahn was charged with attempting to rape a maid in his New York City hotel room, but that case was dismissed due to the maid's history of lying.

Sarkozy Bars Radical Imams from Entering France; Part of Crackdown to Combat Terrorism in France

The Reuters website reports that France will bar radical Muslim preachers from entering the country to participate in an Islamic conference next month, as part of a crackdown after shootings by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman, President Nicolas Sarkozy said today (March 26, 2012).

Sarkozy -- who has announced plans to punish those viewing Islamist websites and going abroad for indoctrination -- said he would block the entry of some imams invited to a congress organized by the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF).

The UOIF -- one of three Muslim federations in France -- is regarded as close to Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

"I have clearly indicated that there are certain people who have been invited to this congress who are not welcome on French soil," Sarkozy said.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Patriarch Kirill: Punk Band Did Work of the Devil; Annoyed Some Russians Want Leniency of Band

The Guardian (British) website reports today (March 25, 2012) that a feminist punk band -- which staged an unsanctioned performance in Moscow's principal cathedral -- was doing the work of the devil, according to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian Patriarch Kirill said "the devil laughed at us" when Pussy Riot performed their song Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Expel Putin, in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior less than two weeks before Russia's presidential elections.

Three members of the Pussy Riot have been arrested since the "punk prayer," and remain in prison awaiting trial on hooliganism charges. All face sentences of up to seven years in prison.

Patriarch Kirill was annoyed by some Russians calling for leniency for the punk band. "My heart breaks from bitterness that amongst these people there are those who call themselves Orthodox," Patriarch Kirill said.

Pope Condemns Mexican Drug Trade, Corruption; Says Mass to 600,000 People in Leon Park in Mex.

Pope Benedict XVI -- at a huge outdoor Mass today (March 25, 2012) in Leon, Mexico -- condemned drug trafficking and corruption in Mexico, urging people to renounce violence in the country where a brutal war between cartels has killed tens of thousands of people, according to the Reuters website.

On his last day in Mexico, the pope said Mass for a vibrant crowd that organizers estimated at more than 600,000 people in a sprawling park on the edge of Leon -- a central city which has escaped the worst of the criminal violence plaguing the country.

The 84-year-old pope addressed the biggest crowd of his Latin American trip from a massive white altar platform on a hillside, sprinkling his sermon with words such as conversion and reconciliation.

In a blazing sunshine, Benedict prayed that Mexicans would be given the strength "to boldly promote peace, harmony, justice, and solidarity."

French Gunman's Brother Accused of Complicity; Abdelkader Merah Being Held, Known as Terrorist

The Reuters website reports that French police today (March 25, 2012) are holding the brother of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman in detention on suspicion that he was complicit in Mohamed Merah's killing of seven people, including a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

The Paris public prosecutor's office said it has enough evidence to justify detaining Abdelkader Merah while he was being investigated on multiple counts.

With gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead by police on March 22 after a siege at his home, the focus of the investigation has shifted to his elder brother -- already known as a terrorist to security services for helping smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007.

Abdelkader, 29, was arrested on March 21, as elite police commandos surrounded the Toulouse apartment of his brother Mohamed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

COMMENTARY: Christians Have Lost Respect for Pat Robertson's Views

Televangelist Pat Robertson has done it again -- put his foot in his mouth, that is.

This week, Robertson said on his nationally-broadcast TV program, "The 700 Club," that if Peyton Manning -- the new quarterback for the Denver Broncos -- suffered a recurrence of his neck injury, then "it would serve them (the Broncos) right."

Robertson also said that the Broncos treated quarterback Tim Tebow "shabbily" by trading him to the New York Jets and replacing him with Manning.

This is not the first time that Robertson has made some shocking and anti-Christian statements on his TV program.

In January 2010, Robertson -- a former Baptist minister -- said the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti was the result of Haiti being "cursed" by "a pact with the devil."

In September 2011, Robertson told TV viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's disease is "justifiable."

Early this month, Robertson said that the tornadoes that destroyed parts of America's Midwest would have ceased much sooner than they did, if more people prayed to God to stop them from continuing.

The conclusions that Robertson makes on all of these situations are indeed very bizarre. In fact, his conclusions appear to be anti-Christian.

Consequently, it is our sincere belief that Robertson -- who turned 82 this week -- is being affected by senile dementia.

We believe that senility is affecting Robertson's views, because his views -- those of a Baptist minister, no less -- tend to be anti-Christian. For example, Christ -- in His love of mankind -- would not want Peyton Manning to be seriously injured, because "it would serve the Broncos right."

In the final analysis, then, Christians can no longer respect the views and conclusions conveyed by Pat Robertson that they had respected so heartily in bygone days.

Texas OKs "One State Under God" License Plate; Critics Claim Govt. Should Not Endorse Religion

The Opposing Views website reports today (March 24, 2012) that a license plate that declares Texas "One State Under God" went on sale this week, despite an outcry from critics who say the government should not be endorsing religion.

The license plate -- which was approved by a 4 to 3 vote by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles -- features the words and images of three crosses.

Each plate costs $55, with some proceeds going to Glory Gang -- a group that works with underprivileged children.

Dan Quinn -- communications director for the Texas Freedom Network -- said, "I think you want to be careful when you give government the authority to favor a particular religion in an official way such as this."

Pat Robertson: Broncos Treated Tebow "Shabbily;" Manning Injury "Would Serve the Broncos Right"

The Jacksonville (Florida) website reports today (March 24, 2012) that religious TV broadcaster Pat Robertson said this week that Tim Tebow -- the Denver Broncos quarterback who gained national attention by kneeling down and praying before his team played a football game -- was treated "shabbily" by the Broncos when they traded him to the New York Jets for Peyton Manning.

Robertson also said that if Manning suffered a recurrence of his neck injury -- which had sidelined him for a full season -- Denver would be without a quarterback, and "it would serve them right."

The 81-year-old Robertson made his comments on March 22 on "The 700 Club" TV program.

Robertson had high praise for Tebow on his religious show, saying Denver was a "nothing team" until Tebow led them into the playoffs last season.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NOM Starts "Dump Starbucks" Website, Boycott; Due to Coffee Co. Endorsing Same-Sex Marriage

The New American website reports today (March 23, 2012) that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- a nationwide group battling for traditional marriage -- has launched a "Dump Starbucks" website and a boycott that encourages individuals to stop purchasing Starbucks' coffee, because the Seattle-based company has endorsed same-sex marriage.

Brian Brown -- president of NOM -- explained that Starbucks "has taken a corporate position in support of redefining marriage for all of society."

He added, "We will not tolerate an international company attempting to force its misguided values on citizens."

Brown emphasized that the majority of Americans -- as well as most customers in Starbucks' international market -- "believe that marriage is between one man and one woman."

Over 900 Women Die in Pakistan "Honor Killings;" Some 600 Women Killed Due to "Illicit Relations"

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (March 23, 2012) that -- according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's (HRCP) annual report -- more than 900 women died last year in so-called "honor killings" in predominantly Islamic Pakistan.

The HRCP reported 93 minors and seven Christians among those who were murdered.

"Women were sometimes killed in the name of 'honor' over property disputes and inheritance rights," the commission said.

Nearly 600 of the women killed were accused of having "illicit relations," and more than 200 were murdered for marrying without permission.

Dutch Citizens Must Now Be at Least 18 to Marry; Marriages Between Cousins Will Need Approval

The Dutch News website reports that Dutch ministers today (March 23, 2012) agreed to stop the under 18-year-old residents in the Netherlands from getting married.

Marriages between cousins will also be made more difficult, and both parties will have to prove no compulsion is involved before getting official approval.

Ministers also want to limit the acceptance of polygamous marriages carried out abroad, by only granting one partner residency permit per household.

Polygamy -- allowing men to have more than one wife -- is already banned in the Netherlands.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ADL Study: Anti-Semitism Is Increasing in Europe; Hungary, Spain, Poland Most Anti-Semitic Nations

The Huffington Post website reports today (March 22, 2012) that -- just days after a lone gunman murdered a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France -- a new study reports widespread anti-Semitism in France and across Europe.

The study -- completed in January and released yesterday by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) -- finds that 24 percent of the French population holds anti-Semitic views, up from 20 percent in 2009.

About half a million Jews live in France -- the largest number of Jews in any western European nation -- which is less than one percent of France's population.

The study found particularly high levels of anti-Semitism in three European nations -- Hungary, Spain, and Poland -- which demand a serious response from political, religious, and civic leaders in those nations, according to Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

UGCC Head Says Russian Church Aided Stalin; Wants Russian Orthodox Church to Admit Its Role

The Catholic Culture website reports today (March 22, 2012) that ecumenical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) are being stymied because the Moscow patriarchate will not admit its culpability for cooperating with the Stalinist regime, says Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

The leader of the UGCC -- which suffered brutal persecution during the Stalin era -- said that the Russian Orthodox should acknowledge their role in that historic era.

The UGCC leader said that the Moscow patriarchate's unwillingness to acknowledge moral responsibility for cooperating in the persecution is "a serious obstacle to the development of mutual relations."

The Moscow patriarchate insists that tensions in Ukraine are caused primarily by the activity of the UGCC, which is interfering in the "canonical territory" of the Moscow patriarchate.

French Killer Mohammed Merah Killed by Police; Killed Rabbi, 3 Jewish Kids and 3 French Troops

Mohammed Merah -- the 23-year-old French Muslim gunman who killed seven people recently in the city of Toulouse in southwest France -- is dead after being shot in the head by a police sniper during a final dramatic shootout with French police, the Yahoo News website reports today (March 22, 2012).

It was the culmination of a 31-hour standoff with hundreds of French anti-terror police who had surrounded the building where Merah had barricaded himself.

Merah claimed responsibility for killing three young schoolchildren and their rabbi teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and three French paratroopers of North African descent.

Merah cited the death of Palestinian children in Gaza, and opposition to France's role in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, as the reason for targeting Jewish schoolchildren and French troops.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: Nurses Who Murdered 16 Patients in Uruguay Need Lifetime Prison Sentences

It was revealed this week that two male nurses are facing murder charges in Uruguay, after they admitted killing at least 16 patients in two hospitals in Montevideo, the capital of that South American nation.

The two men appeared to have acted independently of each other. Authorities are also charging a woman as being an accomplice in at least one of the killings.

The nurses said they killed the patients because they did not want to see them suffer; however, one of the patients killed had his discharge order signed one day before his death. The nurses killed the patients by administering a morphine overdose or by injecting air bubbles into their blood stream.

The fact is that the nurses -- as well as the accomplice -- have no right whatsoever to kill any patient, regardless of how much a patient may be suffering. God -- and God alone -- must decide when it is time for a patient to die.

This situation in Uruguay brings back memories of the late Dr. Jack Kavorkian -- or "Dr. Death" as he was nicknamed -- and his suicide assistance to Americans who did not want to live any longer. Dr. Kavorkian received a lengthy prison sentence in Michigan for his deadly assistance.

The murderous nurses in Uruguay -- called "Angels of Death" in that country -- as well as the murderous accomplice must also receive a lengthy prison sentence. Indeed, they should receive a lifetime prison sentence, with no possible parole.

Wisconsin Woman Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison; Convicted of Stealing $400,000 from Cath. Church

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (March 21, 2012) that a Milwaukee, Wisconsin woman -- convicted of embezzling $400,000 from the Catholic Church where she worked -- has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Darlene Vodvarka pleaded guilty last month to two charges of felony theft. Her sentence yesterday included an order to pay back the money within the next five years.

Before her sentencing, the 57-year-old read a statement tearfully apologizing to St. Matthew's parish and to her family.

She told the judge that she does not have a drug or gambling problem, and that she used most of the money on her family.

US Commission Rebukes Rel. Freedom in Russia; Finds Russia Intolerant of Non-Orthodox Religions

The Big News Network website reports today (March 21, 2012) that a U.S. government commission on religious freedom has included Russia in a list of countries that require "close monitoring."

The annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has included Russia due to concerns about extremism, treatment of non-traditional religions, and hate crimes.

The USCIRF report states, "In the past year (2011), the Russian government increased its use of anti-extremism legislation against religious groups and individuals not known to use or advocate violence."

It adds, "Russian officials continue to deem certain religious and other groups alien to Russian culture and society, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance." The vast majority of Russians adhere to the Greek Orthodox faith.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Planned Parenthood Guest: OK If Teens Have Sex; Urges Parents Let Teens Have Sex in Their Homes

The Life Site News website reports today (March 20, 2012) that a featured speaker at a Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernadino Counties (California) luncheon last week suggested that parents allow their teenage children to have sex in their home.

Dr. Amy Schalet -- an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst -- said American parents should be more like parents in the Netherlands, who allow teenagers to have sex openly under their roof.

"In the Netherlands, if a girl is in a relationship, she's not a slut for wanting sex," she said.

Schalet -- who spent part of her life in the Netherlands -- said Dutch parents consider children ready for intercourse at the age of 16.

Nurses in Uruguay Arrested for "Mercy Killings;" Sixteen Patients Killed "to End Their Suffering"

Police in Uruguay have arrested two male nurses -- who are suspected of killing at least 16 elderly patients -- in two hospitals in the South American nation's capital, Montevideo, the Eurasia Review website reports today (March 20, 2012).

According to an investigation, the two nurses -- aged 38 and 49 -- knew one another but acted independently. They claimed that they killed their victims "out of pity to end their suffering."

Authorities have also charged a female nurse as being an accomplice in at least one of the murders.

The suspects -- dubbed "Angels of Death" by the local media -- killed their victims by giving them lethal injections of air or morphine.

Jimmy Carter: It's Fine for Gays to Be Married; "Jesus Never Said a Word about Homosexuality"

The Raw Story website reports today (March 20, 2012) that former President Jimmy Carter -- in an interview with The Huffington Post last night regarding his faith -- expressed his approval of same-sex marriage.

"Homosexuality was well-known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality," Carter said. "In all of His teachings about multiple things -- He never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies."

The 39th American president also said, "I draw the line in requiring by law that churches must marry people."

He added, "I'm a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist Church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis -- which my church does by the way -- then it is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn't require them to."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Convicted Brooklyn Rabbi Loses in Court Appeal; Rabbi Balkany Tried to Scam $4M in Donations

The New York Post website reports that a Manhattan appeals court today (March 19, 2012) upheld the conviction of a crooked Brooklyn rabbi for trying to shake down billionaire Steve Cohen's hedge fund with phony allegations of inside trading.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Rabbi Milton Balkany's claim that jurors should have been allowed to consider if he was entrapped.

Balkany, 65, is currently serving four years in a federal prison in Miami for trying to scam $4 million in donations to his financially strapped Bais Yaakov Jewish girls' school.

Defense lawyer Paul Shechtman said, "Rabbi Balkany accepts the court's ruling."

High Court Rules Against Campus Christian Clubs; Accepts Lower Court Ruling of Const. Not Violated

The One News Now website reports that the U.S. Supreme Court today (March 19, 2012) refused to hear an appeal from Christian groups that challenged a discrimination policy at California state universities.

By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court left in place a federal appeals court ruling that found that the policy does not violate the Constitution.

The policy says officially recognized campus groups cannot discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation.

A Christian fraternity and a sorority -- both from San Diego State University -- sued in 2005, arguing that the policy violates their religious freedom. The groups are restricted to Christian members.

Rabbi, 3 Children Shot Dead at Jewish School; Shooter in France "Shot Everything He Could See"

The Yahoo News website reports that a shooter opened fire on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France this morning (March 19, 2012) -- just as students arrived -- killing four, including a 30-year-old rabbi and his two children.

The shooter -- who arrived and fled from the Ozar Hatorah school on a motorcycle -- "shot at everything he could see," according to local prosecutor Michel Valet.

The dead included Rabbi Jonathan Sandler -- who taught at the school -- his 3- and 6-year-old sons Gabriel and Arieh, and the school headmaster's 8-year-old daughter.

A 17-year-old and two other students were seriously wounded.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Belarus Executes Two Men Due to Metro Bombing; EU, Human Rights Groups Slam Savage Shootings

The Guardian (British) website reports today (March 18, 2012) that the European Union (EU) and several human rights groups have strongly condemned the execution of two young men in Belarus, following their conviction for a deadly attack on the Minsk metro last April that killed 15 people.

Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov -- both 26 -- were put to death late last night. In Belarus, execution is performed by a gunshot to the back of the head.

Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko -- described as "Europe's last dictator" by former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice -- had rejected pleas for clemency from the EU.

Thorbjorn Jaglan -- secretary general of the Council of Europe -- said, "Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes people."

Al-Qaida Kills American Teacher in Yemen Today; Viewed Language Teacher as Christian Missionary

The Voice of America News website reports that a Yemeni militant group -- affiliated with al-Qaida -- says it shot and killed an American teacher in southern Yemen today (March 18, 2012) for preaching Christianity.

Militants riding a motorcycle shot the man in his car in the southern city of Taiz, because they believed he was a Christian missionary.

Yemeni officials say the American had been working at a European-run language institute.

Authorities launched an investigation to find the perpetrators of the attack.

Court Orders Museum Return Nazi-Seized Art; Posters Worth Up to $21M Go to Owner's Son

The France 24 website reports today (March 18, 2012) that Germany's top federal appeals court ruled on March 16 that a Berlin museum must return thousands of rare posters to an American man -- part of his Jewish father's unique collection -- that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II.

The Federal Court of Justice in Karisruhe confirmed Peter Sachs, 74, was the rightful owner of the posters collected by his father, Hans, and ruled he is entitled to receive them back from the German Historical Museum.

The court said that if the museum kept the posters -- which have been estimated to be worth up to $21 million -- it would be akin to perpetuating the crimes of the Nazis.

Peter Sachs -- who now lives in Nevada -- said of the court ruling: "It feels like vindication for my father, a final recognition of the life he lost and never got back."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

COMMENTARY: NY Times' Double Standard on Religion Violates Freedom of the Press

The New York Times last week published an ad purchased by an atheist organization titled "It's Time to Consider Quitting The Catholic Church."

But when another organization tried to buy a similar ad against Islam, the newspaper refused to publish it, thus illustrating that The York Times has a double standard on religion.

The Times published the anti-Catholic ad -- purchased by the atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation -- which challenged Roman Catholic beliefs and pointed to the church's past sex scandals, among other things, as reasons for Catholics to leave their church.

On the other hand, The Times did not publish an ad that Pamela Geller -- president of Stop Islamization of Nations -- tried to have published titled "It's Time To Quit Islam."

It is a sad day for America's freedom of the press when the nation's third largest circulating daily newspaper -- after The Wall Street Journal and USA Today -- decides it is unfit to publish one religious ad, even though it just published another religious ad that was very similar.

Ironically, The New York Times is violating its own long-standing motto of "All the news that's fit to print" by printing an ad criticizing one religion, but refusing to print another ad criticizing another religion.

The fact is that The New York Times -- as a result of its discriminatory and biased policy in this situation -- has now been stigmatized and has lost the respect it once commanded from a plethora of Americans.

Indeed, it will take many years before The New York Times can possibly regain the respect it previously had for being an objective and unbiased newspaper, as it circulates in our great freedom-loving nation.

Then, again, The New York Times may never regain that respect!

Egypt Coptic Orth. Christian Pope Shenouda Dies; Shenouda III Was Head of 12 Million Christians

Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian Pope Shenouda III -- the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians -- died today (March 17, 2012) from old age, his political adviser told the Reuters website.

Bells tolled in Cairo's Abbasiya district -- site of Egypt's main Coptic Orthodox cathedral -- as the news spread.

Shenouda, 88, became the 117th Pope of Alexandria in 1971, and was popular among Egypt's Christians and Muslims alike during his four decades in power.

His successor -- who has not yet been named -- will play a central role in forging the church's position in the country after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last year. Islamist political parties have since swept parliamentary elections and will dominate the debate over drawing up Egypt's new constitution.

Former Nazi Guard Demjanjuk Dies in Germany; Convicted of Killing 28,000 Jews During WW II

The Reuters website reports that John Demjanjuk -- convicted last year for his role in killing 28,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp during World War II -- died today (March 17, 2012) at the age 91 in a care home in southern Germany.

A Munich court convicted Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk in May 2011 of helping to kill the Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison but freed because of his age.

The Bavarian police said in a statement that Demjanjuk had died at the care home near Rosenheim -- south of Munich -- where he had been living.

Demjanjuk was extradited to Germany from his home in the United States in 2009 to stand trial. He attended the 18-month court proceedings in Munich -- the birthplace of Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement -- in a wheelchair and sometimes lying down. He denied the charges against him, but otherwise did not speak at his trial.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Judge Rules in Favor of St. Louis Polish Parish; Rules It Can Control Its Own Assets and Property

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (March 16, 2012) that a court has ruled that a predominantly Polish parish in St. Louis can control its own assets and property, thus giving it a long-sought victory over the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Judge Bryan Hettenbach yesterday decided in favor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church.

St. Stanislaus pastor, Marek Bozek, says he hopes the decision opens the way for new dialogue with the Catholic Church.

The archdiocese said it plans to appeal yesterday's ruling.

New York Times Has Double Standard on Religion; Runs Ad Bashing Catholics, Not on Bashing Islam

The Fox News website reports today (March 16, 2012) that the New York Times is being accused of having a double standard when it comes to questioning religion, after it ran an ad calling on Catholics to leave their church, but refused to run an ad making the same plea to Muslims.

The newspaper published an ad from the Freedom From Religion Foundation -- an atheist organization -- on March 9, which asked Catholics, "why send your children to parochial schools to be indoctrinated into the next generation of obedient donors and voters?"

But when Pamela Geller -- executive director of Stop Islamization of America -- offered the same $39,000 for the newspaper to run an ad making a similar appeal to Muslims, it refused to do so.

"This shows the hypocrisy of the New York Times .... and its willingness to kowtow to violent Islamic supremacist intimidation," Geller said.

Abp. of Canterbury Says He Will Retire in Dec.; Will Take on a Senior Role at Cambridge Univ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams -- head of the Anglican Church -- announced today (March 16, 2012) that he will be stepping down from his position at the end of December, and take on the role as Master of Magdalene College, a senior position at Cambridge University.

"It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision," Williams said in a statement.

Although the normal retirement age for Church of England bishops is 70, Williams, 61, is believed to be stepping down early due mainly to the turbulent time being experienced in the Anglican Church, amid debates about same-sex marriage and women priests.

Dr. John Sentamu -- the Archbishop of York -- has been named as the favorite for succeeding Dr. Williams, which would make him the first Black Anglican leader in history.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Italian Group Condemns Dante's "Divine Comedy;" Finds Poem Racist, Wants It Banned from Schools

The Big News Network website reports today (March 15, 2012) that a research group has said that Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" -- an epic poem about travels through hell and heaven -- was racist and against Islam, and should be banned from schools in Italy.

"The 'Divine Comedy' is the pillar of Italian literature and a cornerstone of Italian literature, and the educational formation of the country's students," said Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, an anti-racism group that works for the United Nations.

"Students are taught the work's offensive and discriminatory language without any filter," she added.

Dante wrote the "Divine Comedy" between 1308 and his death in 1321 while in exile from Florence. In the epic poem, Dante's alter ego Pilgrim travels through hell, purgatory, and heaven -- and even meets God along the way.

Italy Terror Suspect Is Arrested Over Milan Plot; Moroccan Suspected of Planning Synagogue Attack

Italian police arrested a Moroccan man early today (March 15, 2012) on suspicion of plotting an attack against a Milan synagogue, after observing that the suspect had used a Google map application to case security there, according to the Huffington Post website.

The suspect -- identified only as a 20-year-old worker who has lived in Italy since age 6 -- was arrested in the northern city of Brescia, about 60 miles east of Milan.

Brescia Police Chief Lucio Carluccio said anti-terrorism investigators identified the suspect from Internet traffic, including a Facebook page on how to assemble explosives.

Authorities confiscated two Nazi flags at the suspect's residence, along with computers, and quantities of chemicals needed to make an explosive.

Prayer Costs Indiana Food Pantry Govt. Products; Volunteers Asked People If They Wanted to Pray

The Christian Post website reports today (March 15, 2012) that an Indiana food pantry has lost access to government commodities to distribute to clients, because its volunteers would ask people if they would like to pray.

Community Provisions of Jackson County in Seymour, Indiana -- a faith-based food pantry supported by local churches -- can no longer provide clients with federal government commodities due to its prayer policy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

COMMENTARY: U.S. Flag Must Not Be Desecrated with a Picture

Veterans' groups and many other Americans became infuriated this week -- and rightly so -- after seeing an American flag with a picture of President Barack Obama in place of the flag's stars.

The flag was flying at the Democratic headquarters in Lake County, Florida, but was removed on March 13, as a result of several complaints about the flag's desecration by American veterans.

The Democratic Party -- or whatever organization was responsible for this flag desecration -- should know better than that. Thousands of Americans have lost their lives in several wars, in order to allow Americans to continue to enjoy the freedom and justice that is symbolized by the American flag.

To put a picture of President Obama on the American flag -- in place of the flag's stars -- is doing an injustice to the flag and everything it represents. To add insult to injury in this situation, President Obama has never even served a day of active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Many Americans can still recall and praise a picture of the American flag about to be flown on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II -- more than 65 years ago -- as four or five American troops worked together diligently to insert that flag pole in the ground on that Japanese island.

On the other hand, a picture of President Obama on a flag tends to remind a person of flags with pictures honoring -- and even worshiping -- Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, and other famous dictators and mass murderers.

The American flag, then, must be observed and respected as a true symbol of the freedom, liberty, and justice that we are indeed fortunate to enjoy in the United States. It must never be desecrated with a picture of the president of the United States -- or anyone else for that matter.

Vets Furious Over US Flag with Obama's Picture; One Veteran Compares It to Flags of Stalin, Hitler

The Drudge Report website reports today (March 14, 2012) that an American flag in Lake County, Florida -- which features a picture of President Obama in place of the stars -- was taken down from the Lake County Democratic headquarters yesterday afternoon, after a furious veterans' group called it an outrage.

Korean War veteran Don Van Beck said his blood was boiling. "I can't describe how upset I was because you just don't do that to the American flag," Van Beck said.

Marine Corps veteran John Masterjohn was seeing red. "Joseph Stalin, pictures of Mao, pictures of Adolph Hitler. The pomp, the ceremony -- the flags like that," Masterjohn said.

"If you've been a veteran and fought -- and some died for this flag -- you don't want to see it desecrated. That's how simple it is," Van Beck said.

San Francisco Drug Users Union Meets Regularly; Demands Voice In Decisions Affecting Drug Users

The Washington Times website reports today (March 14, 2012) that drug users -- and even some men and women who now are drug-free -- convene regularly in San Francisco's Tenderloin district to discuss public health policy and share their experiences.

The San Francisco Drug Users Union -- one of a few such groups in the United States -- was established to demand a voice "in decision-making processes that affect our lives."

In the coming months, members of the San Francisco group plan to testify before a city panel on housing discrimination.

The group will also co-host the first conference in the U.S. by and for drug users.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Russian City Forbids Sexual Info Aimed at Minors; Orthodox Church Heads Want This Law for Nation

The Life Site News website reports today (March 13, 2012) that officials of the Russian Orthodox Church are hailing a new law signed recently by St. Petersburg governor Georgy Poltavchenko, which prohibits homosexualist propaganda targeting minors, and asking that it be extended to the whole country.

"The law passed in St. Petersburg will help protect children from information manipulators by minorities promoting sodomy," said Dimitri Pershin, a Russian Orthodox priest.

He added, "The persistence of sexual minorities and their intentions to rally near children's establishments indicates that this regional law is highly needed and should be urgently given federal status."

St. Petersburg -- Russia's second largest city (after Moscow) -- now fines individuals up to $170 and companies up to $17,000 for "public actions aimed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors."

Four Amish Youth Buggy Drag Race in Upstate NY; Crash into Police Car, Charged with Using Alcohol

The Huffington Post website reports today (March 13, 2012) that four Amish youths were charged with underage drinking, after they crashed their horse-drawn buggy into a police cruiser in upstate New York.

Last Sunday night, police were dispatched to the town of Sherman -- located about 90 miles south of Buffalo -- in response to complaints about Amish youths drinking and drag racing their horses and carriages on the road, said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace.

When police came, one of the buggies ended up crashing into the patrol car. The buggy flipped over, and the horse broke free and ran to a nearby barn.

Four youths -- aged 18 to 20 -- were charged with underage possession of alcohol.

Muslim Man Burns Belgian Mosque, Imam Dies; Police Arrest Suspect, Motive for Fire Unknown

The Eurasia Review website reports today (March 13, 2012) that an axe-wielding man burst into a mosque outside Brussels yesterday, and started a fire that resulted in the death of the imam.

Police have not identified the suspect, but say he is a 34-year-old Muslim.

He started the fire in the mosque -- using a flammable liquid -- and the imam died after inhaling smoke and fumes while trying to put out the flames.

Police arrested the suspect -- who had been locked in a room by worshipers -- but a motive for the attack is not yet known.

Monday, March 12, 2012

At Least 90 Iraqi Teens Stoned to Death in Month; Rel. Radicals View Their "Emo" Looks as Devilish

The Renew America website reports today (March 12, 2012) that at least 90 Iraqi teenagers with "emo" appearances -- that is, long hair and rings attached to their noses, tongues, and other body parts -- have been stoned to death by religious extremists in Baghdad in the past month, after an inflammatory interior ministry statement dubbed it "devil worshiping."

Iraq's Moral Police released a chilling statement on the interior ministry's website condemning the "emo" phenomenon among Iraqi youth.

"The 'Emo phenomenon' or devil worshiping is being followed by the Moral Police who have the approval to eliminate the phenomenon as soon as possible, since it is detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger," the statement read.

A group of religious extremist armed men -- dressed in civilian clothing -- led dozens of teenagers to secluded areas a few days ago, stoned them to death, and then disposed of their bodies in garbage dumpsters, according to activists.

"Liberal Ladies" Group Plans to Hold a Sex Strike; Says That Denying Women's Choices Affects Men

The Blaze website reports today (March 12, 2012) that "Liberal Ladies Who Lunch" -- a women's group -- is organizing an unusual event, which it is calling "Access Denied: Sex Strike."

The event -- which is scheduled to take place between April 28 and May 5 -- features a poster of a woman's legs taped together above the knees that says, "If our reproductive choices are denied, so are yours."

The women's group describes its views on the event's Facebook page, saying, "In truth, if we lose our hard won rights to medical care, birth control, and pregnancy choice it won't only affect women. Men will have to go back to the days when they waited for or paid for sex."

The group also provides a history of "sex strikes," beginning with ancient Greece, where in the play "Lysistrata" the women of Greece go on a sex strike, which has a significant impact in ending the decades-long Peloponnesian War.

Hundreds of Czechs Protest Chinese Rule of Tibet; Call for Freedom for Tibet Near Chinese Embassy

The Prague Daily Monitor website reports today (March 12, 2012) that some 200 people called for freedom and independence for Tibet outside the Chinese embassy in Prague on March 10 at a demonstration staged by Amnesty International (AI).

They pointed to human rights violation and to those who have burnt themselves to death recently in protest against Chinese rule.

More than 400 Czech town halls and regional offices fly the Tibetan flag as a sign of solidarity with Tibetan people.

The Chinese army invaded Tibet -- a predominantly Buddhist nation -- in October 1950. Since 1965, Tibet has been a Chinese autonomous region.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Russian Feminist Punk Rock Band Appeals Arrest; Sang Blasphemous Song at Russian Orth. Church

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (March 11, 2012) that lawyers have appealed the arrest of two members of a feminist punk rock band for performing a song inside Moscow's largest Orthodox Church that outraged clergy and worshipers.

On March 5, Moscow's Tagansky Court confirmed an order that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- performers of the Pussy Riot band -- stay in custody until April 24.

Pussy Riot sang a song in front of the altar in the massive Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21.

The group described the song as a "punk prayer," but many of the worshipers who were present saw it as being blasphemous.

British Govt. Is against Wearing Crucifix at Work; Two Women Sue Govt. at Court of Human Rights

The Newser website reports today (March 11, 2012) that Britain's government -- which believes that Christians have no legal right to openly wear a crucifix at work -- will side against two women who say they were laid off for wearing Christian symbols in the workplace.

Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, will face government lawyers when the case reaches the European Court of Human Rights.

British officials argue that wearing a cross is not a "requirement of faith," while lawyers for the women say requirements are irrelevant -- crucifixes "manifest" faith, so they are protected.

Pope Benedict, Abp. of Canterbury Pray Together; Fail to Address Anglican, Catholic Differences

The Reuters website reports today (March 11, 2012) that Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury -- spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans -- met and prayed together, but made only glancing references to the divisions between their Churches.

Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke of the "certain but imperfect" link between the two Christian traditions during his address to the congregation at a joint service at the Church of St. Gregory the Great near Rome's Colosseum.

The 84-year-old German Pope -- who earlier held a private meeting with the archbishop at the Vatican -- urged all Christians to "renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity" at the same service.

Past popes and Anglican leaders have been much more outspoken about their differences -- over issues ranging from women priests and homosexuality to church doctrine -- during their meetings.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

COMMENTARY: U.S. Congress Is Unlikely to Approve a National Muhammad Holiday

This week, a New York City imam declared that he will start a campaign next month to make April 26 -- the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad -- a national holiday in the United States.

The imam said that a U.S. holiday honoring Muhammad -- who was born in 570 AD -- would allow all Americans to enjoy that holiday like they enjoy Christmas.

While we understand and commend the imam's desire and diligence to honor Muhammad with a national holiday, we believe that the imam's goal is unlikely to occur, because of the ramifications that must be considered in adopting his idea.

The fact is that 95 percent of American worshipers are Christians; 2.2 percent are Jewish; 1 percent are Muslims; and another 1 percent are Buddhists. Consequently, we honor Christ in the United States on December 25 because America was founded by Christians, and Christians comprise the overwhelming majority of Americans today.

If the U.S. Congress approved a national holiday for Muslims, we can be assured that American Jews -- who comprise more than double the number of American Muslims -- will also want to be recognized with a national holiday. Buddhists, as well, will want a holiday to honor Buddha.

Several religious denominations -- such as Mormons -- will want a religious holiday to honor Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism), or whoever their religious leader is.

These are the ramifications that would prevail if the United States were to adopt a national holiday to honor the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, the U.S. would undoubtedly encounter a "domino effect," as many minority religions in the country would seek a national holiday. Needless to say, it would be unfair for the U.S. to honor one minority religion with a national holiday, but not another.

That being the case, we believe that it is very unlikely that Congress will approve any request from any religion for a national holiday.

Past Faith-Based Head Now Unhappy with Its Goals; Calls the Office "Faith-Based Farce" under Obama

The man who guided President George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives from 2002 to 2006 says the office has become a "faith-based farce" under President Barack Obama, and should be shut down, the One News Now website reports today (March 10, 2012).

Jim Towey -- now president of Ave Maria University -- accuses Obama of turning the faith-based office into "nothing but a political outreach operation" to get clergy behind his agenda.

Towey said that when Obama became president -- and recognized the faith-based office -- one of its stated goals became "reducing the need for abortion."

Towey added, "Now you see what that meant. That meant a huge expansion in contraceptive services, and they took George Bush's armies of compassion and turned them into armies of contraception."

Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Medicaid Fraud; Lawsuit Says It Received $5.7M in Fraud Billing

The Christian Post website reports today (March 10, 2012) that Abby Johnson -- former clinic director turned pro-life activist -- is accusing Planned Parenthood of committing Medicaid fraud, according to a federal lawsuit made public yesterday.

Johnson -- represented by Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorneys -- claimed that her former employer Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast made fraudulent claims seeking Medicaid reimbursements through the Texas Women's Health Program.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act (TMFPA), which allows "whistleblowers" with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors.

The suit noted that at least 87,075 of the claims made by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast were fraudulent, and resulted in Planned Parenthood receiving and retaining fraudulent reimbursements totaling more than $5.7 million.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hateful Messages Painted on Mich. Cath. Church; Many Church Members Hail from Mideast Nations

The Spero Forum website reports today (March 9, 2012) that parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Troy, Michigan -- and members of its wider community -- are still in shock over hateful messages scrawled on the exterior walls of the church that appeared yesterday morning.

The messages -- which included "(expletive deleted) you" and "U R dead" -- were discovered by worshipers as they arrived for the morning liturgy on March 8.

Scrawled in orange paint, the messages were removed from the white walls of the church by a cleaning crew after they were discovered.

Rev. Rudy Zoma -- pastor of St. Joseph's -- expressed gratitude to the surrounding community for the support the church received. Many of the parishioners of St. Joseph's hail from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, which may have been the reason the church was targeted by the vandals.

Sacramento Diocese Ends Fin.Aid to Homeless Ctr.; Center's New Head Backs Abortions, Gay Marriages

The California Catholic Daily website reports today (March 9, 2012) that the Diocese of Sacramento has decided to end two decades of financial support to a non-profit agency serving the homeless, after the center named as its director a Methodist minister known for her outspoken support of abortion and same-sex marriage.

The homeless center -- Francis House -- named Methodist minister Rev. Faith Whitmore as its executive director in April 2011.

Whitmore -- former senior pastor of St. Mark's Methodist Church in Sacramento -- has a long record of public advocacy of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Consequently, the Diocese of Sacramento -- with the approval of Bishop Jaime Soto -- sent a letter to the charity saying that, because of Whitmore's record of public opposition to Catholic teaching, it was "impossible for the diocese to continue funding Francis House."

Israel Asks US for Updated "Bunker Buster" Bombs; Would Improve Its Ability to Destroy Iran's Sites

The Reuters website reports today (March 9, 2012) that Israel has asked the United States for advanced "bunker buster" bombs and refueling planes that would improve its ability to attack Iran's nuclear sites, an Israeli official has revealed.

The official -- who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of Israel's request -- said the request was made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit with President Barack Obama at the White House this week.

The official played down reports as being "unrealistic" that state the U.S. would supply Israel with any military equipment it wants -- but only if Israel promises the U.S. that it will not attack Iran this year. Netanyahu -- who did not agree to such a promise -- told Obama that no decision has been made yet on just when Israel will attack Iran.

President Obama opposes an Israeli attack on Iran this year -- Obama is running for re-election in November -- as he fears he would lose many votes if a pre-election Israeli attack were to occur.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pakistan Starts Legal Case on 3 Bin Laden Widows; Charged with Entering Pakistan Illegally, Forgery

The CNN website reports today (March 8, 2012) that Pakistani authorities have started legal proceedings against three widows of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for entering Pakistan illegally and forgery.

The women are in the custody of Pakistani authorities, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Pakistan told U.S. officials last year that three wives of bin Laden -- who was killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces last year -- were living in the country.

The widows have already been presented in court and are now in custody, Malik said.

Pat Robertson Urges Decriminalizing Marijuana; Says Marijuana Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol

The Newsplex website reports today (March 8, 2012) that American televangelist Pat Robertson, 81, said he believes marijuana should be legal.

Robertson called for decriminalizing marijuana in an interview with the New York Times that was published today.

Robertson says he has never used marijuana, and that he does not intend to use it.

But he says that he believes marijuana should be regulated like alcohol.

Muhammad's Birthday May Become National Holiday; NY Imam: "We Can Enjoy This Day Like Christmas"

The Christian Post website reports today (March 8, 2012) that a New York City imam has declared that he will start a campaign on April 22, 2012 to make the April 26 birthday of the prophet Muhammad a national holiday celebrated by Muslims and Americans of other faiths.

Mohammad Abdul Qayyoom -- head of the Muhammadi Community Center in Jackson Heights in the NYC borough of Queens -- asks in the petition for an establishment of April 26 as a federal holiday, "so that we can enjoy this day like the joy of Christmas."

April 26 was proposed because it is the day recognized as the day the prophet Muhammad was born in 570 AD, the imam said.

He emphasized that the holiday would invite people of all faiths to celebrate together, "because Prophet Muhammad said, 'I am not the prophet of only Muslims. I am the prophet of all human beings.'"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

COMMENTARY: Northeastern University's SGA Made the Right Decision on Chick-fil-A

Last week, the Student Government Association (SGA) at Northeastern University voted 31-5 not to allow Chick-fil-A to have a franchise on its Boston campus.

The major reason for denying Chick-fil-A to be a vendor in the Northeastern food court -- which is currently being renovated -- is that the company allegedly discriminates against homosexuals.

Northeastern's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) advocacy group -- known as NU Pride -- was emphatically opposed to Chick-fil-A having a franchise on campus.

Although we do not personally agree with living an LGBT lifestyle, we believe that the SGA voted correctly in denying Chick-fil-A from becoming a vendor at Northeastern.

The fact is that a great university -- like Northeastern -- must maintain certain high standards and practices, in order to achieve its objectives. One of these objectives is being open and non-prejudicial to all religions, ethnic groups, racial groups, and social lifestyles, as a university strives to promote diversity in a changing world.

An institution of higher learning that accepts an organization -- or a vendor in the case of Northeastern -- that is opposed to this objective is degrading itself and hindering its ability to flourish in our current society.

Consequently, we support Northeastern's SGA decision on Chick-fil-A.

Priests Will Operate World's Only Paradrop Church; Church Used in Fields by Russian Orthodox Troops

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (March 7, 2012) that priests -- with the Russian Airborne Troops -- will take a crash course next week to operate the world's only paradrop Orthodox Christian Church.

The one-week course for the priests -- many of whom are experienced paratroopers with more than 500 jumps -- will take place at an airborne troops facility in Rayazan region in central Russia, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said.

Orthodox Christianity has many rituals utilizing many religious items -- which makes catering to the flock without a church impossible -- the senior priest for the Airborne Troops, Archpriest Mikhail Vasilyev, told the Russian press.

The paradrop church comes complete with nonbreakable religious items, a crate to carry them, as well as a diesel generator, air conditioning, refrigerator, and a multimedia unit complete with a mini-theater booth and projector, the military said.

Abp. of Canterbury to Pray with Pope on March 10; Will Co-Celebrate Vespers in Monastery in Rome

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) website reports today (March 7, 2012) that the Archbishop of Canterbury will pray together with Pope Benedict XVI in a rare gesture of unity on Saturday, March 10, despite simmering resentment over the Catholic Church's move to recruit Anglicans.

Anglican leader Rowan Williams and the pope will celebrate vespers together in the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio near the Colosseum in Rome, and a stone Celtic cross brought from Canterbury will be put up in the church.

There have been tensions following Benedict's move in 2009 to set up special structures in Britain and the United States to allow disgruntled conservative Anglican clergymen and faithful to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the prayers -- as well as two joint performances by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and the Vatican -- are "a sign of moving together along the same path."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Report Warns Czech Neo-Nazis Now More Skilled; Says They May Resort to Terrorism in Next 5 Yrs.

The Czech Position website reports today (March 6, 2012) that the Czech Ministry of Interior states that -- based on a study released on March 1 -- extreme right-wing movements in the Czech Republic are becoming more discreet and sophisticated, and warns that neo-Nazis and other groups may resort to terrorism.

According to the 50-odd page report -- authored by political scientist Miroslav Mares and several contributors -- a rise in racially motivated attacks can be expected over the next five years.

Mares says in the report that an increase in violent attacks can be expected due to: worsening economic conditions; increasing social exclusion; mainstream political failure by extreme right-wing parties; and the influence of foreign white supremacist groups.

There are currently around 4,000 extreme right-wing activists in the Czech Republic -- according to the report -- with an especially active core of around 400 leaders and ideologists.

Pat Robertson: Prayer Could Have Ended Tornadoes; Says God Would Intervene If Enough People Prayed

The Raw Story website reports today (March 6, 2012) that televangelist Pat Robertson -- yesterday on his TV program -- tried to deflect the blame for tornadoes away from God.

"God doesn't send tornadoes to hurt people," he said. "We call them acts of God, but they're not."

Recently, early spring tornadoes in the Midwest and South of the United States have killed 39 people.

"If enough people were praying, He would've intervened; you could pray," Robertson added. "Jesus stilled the storm; you can still storms."

Col. Megachurch of 4,000 to Split from PCUSA; Opposed to PCUSA's Acceptance of Homosexuality

The Christian Post website reports today (March 6, 2012) that a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in Colorado -- with some 4,000 members -- has decided to break its ties with its mainline denomination.

First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs put its decision concerning breaking away from PC(USA) to a vote on March 4, and 88 percent of its members voted to leave the denomination.

Allison Murray -- leader of staff for the First Presbyterian Church -- said, "What we are trying to do is make an adaptive change that would keep us engaged and relevant as a faith community in today's culture."

Church leaders had discussed and planned a break with PC(USA) for the past several months over issues like the mainline denomination's acceptance of homosexuality.

Monday, March 5, 2012

McCain Calls for US to Lead Airstrikes on Syria; Says US Has Moral Obligation to Force Out Assad

Sen. John McCain today (March 5, 2012) became the first senator to call for airstrikes against Syria, saying President Barack Obama has taken too soft a stand against President Bashar Assad and his brutal crackdown on his own people, the New York Daily News website reports.

From the Senate floor today, McCain said the United States has a moral and strategic obligation to force out Assad and his loyalists.

"The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower," McCain concluded.

More than 7,500 people have been killed in Syria by Assad's troops, since Syrians began to demonstrate for the ouster of Assad in March 2011.

Northeastern Univ. Rejects Chick-fil-A Franchise; Says Vendor Contradicts NU's Values on Diversity

The One News Now website reports today (March 5, 2012) that -- due to mounting pressure from "pro-gay" activists -- the student government at the largest university in Boston has voted down a proposal to bring a Chick-fil-A franchise on campus.

Under an onslaught of hostile criticism from Northeastern University students and faculty, the Student Government Association voted 31-5 not to allow Chick-fil-A to become a campus vendor in a food court that is being renovated.

Among the critics -- that claimed the company discriminates against homosexuals -- was Northeastern's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) advocacy group called NU Pride.

Also denouncing the plan was Northeastern's Graduate Student Government, which issued a statement against Chick-fil-A saying, "It contradicts Northeastern's values and standards with respect to diversity and the University's commitment to its LGBT community."

Fluke Says Rush Limbaugh's Apology Not Enough; Called Fluke a "Slut" and "Prostitute" on His Show

The ABC News website reports that the Georgetown law student -- who drew an apology from Rush Limbaugh this past weekend after the popular conservative radio host called her a "slut" on his show -- said that his public apology was not enough, during an appearance on ABC's "The View" TV show today (March 5, 2012).

"I don't think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything," said the 30-year-old student, Sandra Fluke.

Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his show last week, because she testified in Congress, arguing that her university's health insurance should cover contraception for female students.

The reason that Limbaugh is believed to have apologized for his choice of words to describe Fluke is because several sponsors of his show ended their advertising, as a result of his vulgar description of her.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thousands of Startled Syrians Flee to Lebanon; Flee to Escape Killings, Torture by Syrian Troops

The Daily Mail (British) website reports that thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon today (March 4, 2012) in one of the biggest surges across the border in a single day, since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began a year ago.

Some 2,000 Syrians fled today -- according to the United Nations' refugee agency -- as people tried to escape the shelling and other violence.

The surge comes as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on March 2 that he had received "grisly reports" that Syrian troops were executing and torturing people in Homs, after insurgents abandoned their positions.

A Reuters witness on the Lebanese-Syrian border heard heavy shelling coming from the nearby Syrian town of Qusair earlier today, and saw mainly women and children fleeing toward Lebanon on foot.

Scottish Court Rules against Midwives' Abortion Objecting; Cannot Object to Managing Staff Doing Abortions

The Catholic News website reports today (March 4, 2012) that a Scottish court ruled that two senior Catholic midwives have no right to conscientiously object to overseeing staff involved in late-term abortions in a state-run hospital.

The Court of Session -- Scotland's supreme civil court -- ruled that Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, could not invoke the conscience clause of the 1967 Abortion Act to opt out of their duties at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital because they were not directly involved in performing the abortions.

The pair -- who worked as labor ward coordinators -- had been obliged to delegate, supervise, or support staff involved in performing up to three late-term abortions a week. They claimed that such indirect involvement made them culpable in procedures they found to be abhorrent.

But Lady Anne Smith -- the judge -- said in a February 29 ruling that the conscience opt-out of the 1967 act was qualified, adding that nothing the midwifery nurses "have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman's pregnancy."

St. Laurence O'Toole Relic Stolen at Dublin Church; Was in Christ Church Cathedral Since 13th Century

The Associated Press website reports that officials at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland said today (March 4, 2012) that they are distraught and perplexed over the theft of the church's most precious relic: the preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin.

O'Toole's heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century. It was stored in a heart-shaped wooden box and secured in a small, square iron cage on the wall.

"I'm devastated that one of the treasured artifacts of the cathedral is stolen," said the Most Rev. Dermot Dunne, the cathedral dean.

Ireland's national police force -- called the Garda Siochana -- said detectives were studying hours of closed-circuit TV footage to try to identify approximately 40 people who walked out of the cathedral's front doors yesterday morning.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

COMMENTARY: Educators Must Not Impose Their Values on Their Students

This week, a Haywood County High School principal in Brownsville, Tennessee was forced to resign, because she insulted gay students, as well as students who may have been pregnant.

Principal Dorothy Bond -- while addressing students at a school assembly -- allegedly told them, "If you're gay, you're going to hell, and if you're pregnant, your life is over."

As an educator, Bond should have known better than to make such an insulting and demeaning statement to the students.

The fact is that students have the right to choose and live a gay lifestyle, if that is what they want. Just because Bond finds that lifestyle to be offensive and non-Christian does not give her the right to insult these students.

As for girls who may be pregnant, Bond crossed the line in telling these students, "Your life is over." Many girls who became pregnant while in high school went on to attain high-level careers and happiness.

In today's society, school teachers and administrators need to have much tolerance for students' views and lifestyles, even if they are different from their own.

In the final analysis, an educator must not try to impose his or her values on students, because doing so may prove to be counter-productive -- and may even result in the termination of that educator.

"Go to Hell Barack" Ad in DC Metro Angers US Rep; Ad Is Protected by 1st Amend., Will Stay There

An ad at a DC Metro station -- which starts off criticizing Obama's health care reforms and ends up telling the president to "go to hell" -- has angered Jim Moran, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, the Agence France-Presse website reports today (March 3, 2012).

"Barack Obama wants politicians and bureaucrats to control America's entire medical system. Go to hell Barack," the large ad says.

Moran wrote a letter to Metro general manager Richard Sarles calling for the removal of the advertisement. "The ad is deeply disrespectful of the President of the United States and does not belong in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) network," he wrote.

It turns out that such language is within the accepted limits of American law and such advertisements are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution, guaranteeing free speech. Consequently, the WMATA is not authorized to remove the ad, which will remain at the DC Metro station.

Tenn. High School Principal Is Forced to Resign; She Told Gay Students That They Are Going to Hell

The Christian Post website reports today (March 3, 2012) that a Haywood County High School principal in Brownsville, Tennessee has resigned, after she told gay students that they are going to hell, causing outrage among parents as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which took action on the students' behalf.

Principal Dorothy Bond tendered her resignation on March 1, after the ACLU sent a letter on behalf of several students and families to Haywood County School Superintendent Marion King.

In addressing the students at a school assembly, Bond allegedly said, "If you're gay, you're going to hell, and if you're pregnant, your life is over."

In accepting Bond's resignation, the school board released a statement, saying, "The Haywood County Board of Education acknowledges its student body's right to free speech... and to an atmosphere of tolerance and diversity."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Texas Doctor Charged with $375M Healthcare Fraud; Atty. Gen.: Dr. Certified Most Beneficiaries in US

The New American website reports today (March 2, 2012) that a Texas doctor was arrested on February 28 for "selling his signature" to process nearly $375 million in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims in a scheme that was carried on for half a decade; $350 million was improperly billed for Medicare and $24 million for Medicaid.

Critics are suggesting that this situation only solidifies the fact that the government's Medicare and Medicaid fraud detection system is seriously flawed.

Federal authorities contend that Jacques Roy of the Dallas suburb of DeSoto -- and six other people -- certified 11,000 Medicare recipients through over 500 health providers across a five-year period. The alleged scheme operated from January 2006 to November 2011.

"Dr. Roy's company is alleged to have certified more Medicare beneficiaries for home health services, and had more beneficiaries under its care, than any other medical practice in the United States," U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole disclosed at a news conference in Dallas.

Afghan Clerics Call Burning of Korans an "Evil Act;" Condemn Burning as "Savage Act by American Troops"

The Reuters website reports that senior Afghan clerics said today (March 2, 2012) that the burning of Korans at a NATO base last month was an "evil act" that must be punished -- a demand that could deepen widespread public anger over the incident.

"The council strongly condemns the crime and inhumane, savage act by American troops by desecrating holy Korans," members of a council of clerics said after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Despite apologies from President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials, the desecration of the Korans at Bagram air base ignited a wave of anti-Western fury across Afghanistan, including protests that killed at least 30 people.

The Koran burnings are a setback to the Western campaign to end the Afghan war -- now in its 11th year -- by winning the hearts and minds of Afghans.

Vatican Must Now Pay Taxes on Non-Rel. Property; Its Annual Cost Could Be up to $945 Million

The BBC website reports today (March 2, 2012) that Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has announced that the Vatican must pay taxes on non-religious property, from which it previously enjoyed an exemption.

The annual cost could be up to 720 million euros (945 million dollars), according to municipal government bodies.

Italy's Catholic Church has 110,000 properties, worth about 9 billion euros. It includes shopping centers and a range of residential property.

Last December, the government reintroduced a tax paid by anyone who owns land or property in Italy -- which the Church does not pay.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Girls' Group Shocks Believers at Moscow Church; Performance at Orthodox Church Seen as Blasphemous

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (March 1, 2012) that the Russian Orthodox Church believes all those connected with a recent extravagant performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow should be identified and strictly punished.

"It is difficult to say what motives those girls were guided by. But this needs to be found out. I think all the chain of the organizers of this shameful show should be disclosed, so that its participants and organizers give testimony," Head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplain said on Russian TV.

It was recorded earlier that the feminist punk group -- called Pussy Riot -- performed a song near the altar at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, which many believers perceived as blasphemous.

The Cathedral security service arrested the girls. They later described their performance on Twitter as "a punk prayer."

SBC's Land Says Romney, Mormons Not Christians; Compares Smith to Muhammad,Book of Mormon to Quran

The Newsmax website reports today (March 1, 2012) that Dr. Richard Land -- a leading figure in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) -- said he does not consider Mitt Romney and other Mormons to be Christians.

Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention -- the largest Protestant body in the United States -- with more than 16 million members.

Land said, "Mormonism is not an orthodox, Trinitarian, Christian faith. They do not believe the same thing about God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit that we believe."

He added that in Mormonism, Joseph Smith plays the role that Muhammad plays in Islam, and the Book of Mormon plays the role that the Quran plays in Islam.

NYC Opens Full-Service LGBT Center for Seniors; Will Help Seniors with Health, Meals, Technology

New York City is opening what the city's officials are billing as the nation's first full-service center for seniors who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), the Associated Press website reports today (March 1, 2012).

City officials say the new LGBT facility will be specifically geared to the needs of this segment of the population, whose members sometimes feel isolated from other seniors. The center -- to be located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood -- will open in January.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it's time to change the "one-size-fits-all" approach that has traditionally shaped senior centers.

The new facility will serve LGBT seniors in the city's five boroughs, helping them with everything from health and wellness to meals and technology.