The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Canada (CAIR-CAN) has petitioned the Canadian government to bar evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, from a scheduled evangelistic trip to Winnipeg in October, claiming that Graham's statements calling Islam "a very evil & a very wicked religion," violate Canada's so-called "hate propaganda laws." Those laws were used by the Canadian government in June to bar British Muslim Riyad ul-Haq from the country because of accusations that he was inciting hatred toward Jewis, Christians, & other non-Muslims.
According to CAIR-CAN, if Canada fails to bar Graham, it will be guilty of a "double standard" in the application of the law. Leslie Harmer, spokesperson for Canada's Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, said, "We do not welcome hate-mongers," in reference to Solberg's order blocking ul-Haq from visiting Canada.
Rev. Franklin Graham, president of his father's Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization (BGEA), previously & repeatedly has explained that his comments were taken out of context & always & only referred to the religious teachings themselves that were hate & violence promoting, never toward the Muslim people or individual Muslims. In an opinion-editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal in December of 2001, Graham explained that he does not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith, citing his many Muslim friends, & adding, "While as Christians we disagree with Islamic teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus, we will love all Muslims." He continued, "But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith -- including Christianity." He concluded, "I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."
Canadian officials have not yet responded to CAIR-CAN's request.
A Pima, Arizona couple, founders of a neo-Zoroastrian religious group, has been charged for possession of 172 pounds of marijuana found by law enforcement officers in a state-federal drug abuse task force sweep in February 2006.
Dan & Mary Quaintance, founders of the Church of Cognizance, claim that marijuana, which they call haoma, is a necessary ingredient of their religious practices & is used to improve their spiritual, mental, & physical acuity. Haoma is mentioned in the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism as a ritual herb but is almost certainly notcannabis, the botanical name for marijuana.
The church was formally founded in 1994 & is organized around family groups called monasteries. There are 72 registered monasteries in 42 states & several other countries. The average age of the members is 35.
The Quaintances believe their attorney will be able to get the charges dismissed & that the courts will affirm their right to use haoma in their religious practice.
In some conservative Islamic cultures such as found in rural areas of Turkey, which is officially a secular government, any "shame" brought on a family by its female members has traditionally been overturned by the family's murder of the woman in question. With new Turkish laws against such "honor" crimes, many women find themselves pushed beyond resistance to commit suicide to restore their family's good reputation. The shame to the family can come from such relatively inoccuous "crimes" as a girl wearing blue jeans, or looking inappropriately at a boy, to other relationship-connected activities such as promiscuity, adultery, or romantic linkings not approved by the family.
Turkey's bid to join the European Union (EU) has necessitated some legal changes to make its culture more compatible with European ideals, such as sexual equality & individual freedom. One of the changes has been the tightening & stiffening of laws against so-called "honor killings." While a local community may have a centuries-old tradition of affirming a family's murder of an offending female member, the practice has been outlawed in Turkey for many years. Nevertheless, the enforcement & the level of penalty has increased dramatically since Turkey began application to the EU. Until just recently, families that wanted to conduct an honor killing would use an underage male relative, who could expect a short trial & relatively light prison sentence because of his young age. New Turkish legislation within the last 2 years madates a life sentence for anyone convicted of an honor murder, no matter how young, so families are now turning to compelled suicide or murder disguised as suicide or an accident.
"Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves," noted Yilmaz Akinci, a development group worker. "Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option."
In one Turkish town alone, Batman, a United Nations (UN) official finding reported that this year alone, 36 women have killed themselves. The UN estimates that 5,000 women a year around the world lose their lives because of "honor" issues, the majority in the Middle East & nearly all in Muslim cultures.
In a new survey by the Associated Pressand Ipsos, more than half of the respondents said lying is never justified, but two-thirds said it is justified to lie in certain situations -- not just in a life-or-death dilemma, but even to spare someone's feelings.
The pollsters said the results of the survey showed that most people are against lying in the abstract, but when it comes to their daily lives, they often lie, especially as a shortcut to a desired purpose or to avoid conflict. While most respondents said it was not acceptable to lie on a resume, most also said they had called into work sick when they needed the day for some other purpose. One woman explained that she told her young child that there were no more cartoons on television because it was easier than the vigilance & discipline needed to restrict how much he watched. "It's the easy trap of a lie," she said. "It's easier than telling the truth."
The poll showed that lying was higher among the young (19-29 years old), the better educated, & those in higher income brackets. The poll was of 1,000 adults, taken June 23-27, & had a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.
A life advocacy group, Care Not Killing (CNK), is pushing the British Medical Association (BMA) to renounce its "neutral" position regarding euthansia in favor of a specific directive supporting the preservation of life. According to CNK, most British doctors are opposed to euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide, & the BMA's reluctance to take a stand with their majority is a reflection of BMA leadership being out of touch with actual medical practitioners.
CNK says that legislation recently introduced to Parliament would legalize euthansia & make it attractive as a way to lower the costs of the National Health Service (NHS). CNK director Peter Saunders said, "If the law was changed it would mean a lot of vulnerable people would feel under pressure to request early death because they feel themselves to be a financial & emotional burden."
The BMA is currently debating the issue. BMA (Lothian Division) member Dr. Lewis Morrison responded, "I look after very vulnerable, elderly people & any legislation that could potentially mean those patients might be influenced into a position of considering assisted dying worries me very deeply."
The leader of the Anglican Communion (AC), Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, has suggested a compromise to keep the worldwide union of Anglican churches from a full split between the conservative majority (most of the world's Anglicans) & the liberal minority (mostly in North America). Under Dr. Williams' plan, individual communions would either pledge fidelity to the conservative will of the majority, or would hold a second-level membership in the world wide body that would preclude their participation in most international decision-making.
Dr. Williams' plan follows last week's American conference of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), at which the ECUSA leadership rejected a 2004 international directive, the Windsor Report, that ECUSA apologize for consecrating as bishop a homosexual priest in an active long-term partnership & refrain from any further such ordinations and/or consecrations. The Report also directed ECUSA to refrain from any official same-sex union rites. Instead, the ECUSA convention voted to apologize, not for ECUSA actions, but for unintended hurt; & to use "restraint" in moving forward with actions such as ordination/consecration & rites that would be rejected by the wider Anglican community. The ECUSA also elected as its presiding bishop a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports the ordination & consecration of homosexuals in active same-sex relationships. She succeeds Bishop Frank T. Griswold III, who consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop of ECUSA in New Hampshire in 2003. Bishop Robinson has been in a same-sex relationship for many years & his consecration provoked the AC's Lambeth Commission to produce the Windsor Report.
The Williams plan was contained in a letter that he called a "reflection" on the deep divisions between the conservatives & liberals. Dr. Williams suggested that under this model, full-member churches would limit their actions in deference to the international majority while "churches in association" would have no such limits, but would also "have no direct path in the decision-making" of the international communion. The letter also suggested that a similar system be used to maintain the unity of ECUSA, so that both the liberal & the conservative dioceses could continue to function in association. At this time, some 10 conservative dioceses representing 900 parishes have formed the Anglican Communion Network as a prelude to abandoning ECUSA altogether & affiliating with some other international Anglican bodies, as a number of ECUSA parishes have done already.
Anglican Bishop of Durham Dr. N. T. Wright's insightful analysis of the controversy is available here: The Choice Before ECUSA.
A television show with a cross-dressing reincarnation of a Christian revolutionary & a host who puts guests in touch with their past lives is drawing mass audiences in a country where spiritualism has a long tradition. Hiroyuki Ehara's books have sold more than 7 milllion copies on Japan, & the bearded self-anointed "spiritual counselor" is making a fortune in television, publishing, public appearances, & high priced private "counseling" sessions.
Observers of Japanese culture say long-standing fascination with life after death,exemplified in traditional Shinto, & current anxieity about work, famly, & economics are the sources of the current surge in interest in spiritual contacts.
"Spiritualism has always been an undercurrent in Japanese society," observed Toji Kamata, professor of religion at Kyoto University of Art & Design. He noted that after 9/11, "People came to the realization that religion is something that can't be ignored," adding, "Japanese also suffered a loss of identity as they began to doubt Western values."
Friday, March 31 2006 @ 01:56 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
A bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives on Thursday has backing from major abortion rights organizations that say alternatives to abortion should have no right to advertise their services as "family planning" if they do not provide abortion services. Under the proposed legislation, such advertising would be outlawed as deceptive. Pro-life organizations say such a move is hypocritical in that it claims to care about truth-in-advertising & yet its proponents have no intention of providing truth-in-advertising regarding the nature & consequences of abortions themselves.
Maloney stated that any organization that did not provide full abortion services or referrals should not be allowed to advertise as "legitimate family planning centers." She said that such groups actually intend to "lure women seeking abortion information & talk them out of getting an abortion."
The legislation is supported by major abortion right organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, whose president, Nancy Keenan, remarked, "It's time for Congress to step in & hold fake clinics accountable."
Pro-life advocates say they are not in favor of deceit, but they are committed to fighting for the right to advertise honestly that they provide family planning & help for crisis pregnancies even if they do not provide alternatives that result in the death of unborn children. Said Chris Slattery, founder & director of EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers, which operates 15 clinics in New York City, "This is clearly a desperate move, as the pro-abortion forces are in a panic over a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade. They're grasping for grassroots fundraising straws to mobilize their militant abortion base."
Slattery suggested, "But if we're going to go that way, let's have truth-in-advertising laws that, like cigarette labels, describe every chemical or surgical abortion for what it is: the destruction of human life through a seriously dangerous procedure with short & long-term side-effects."
Slattery promised, "We will fight for our right to reach abortion-minded women with the truth, that expectant mothers do not get at the abortion clinics in New York & across America."
Friday, March 31 2006 @ 01:45 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Abdur Rahman, the Afghan Muslim whose conversion to Christianity 16 years ago culminated this week with being expelled from Afghanistan rather than facing execution for apostasy, has publicly thanked Pope Benedict XVI for intervening on his behalf. Rahman has taken asylum in Italy and arrived in Rome on Wednesday.
Rahman's family has known of his conversion for 16 years, but only turned him in to authorities for apostasy recently because of disputed child custody issues in his divorce proceedings. While the Afghanistan constitution upholds personal liberty, it also upholds Islamic law, which dictates execution for those convicted of apostasy from Islam. Under intense international pressure, the Afghanistan court released Rahman from custody last week, citing a lack of evidence rendering the case unprosecutable, & Rahman's mental state as too unstable for him to be tried. Several Muslim acitivists had called for his death, even if that meant outside the law. Seeking asylum outside his home country was seen as the best way to ensure his life.
Rahman became a Catholic Christian after working with Christian relief & aid workers in Afghanistan.
Friday, March 31 2006 @ 01:25 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Author Dean Koontz has written many novels of suspense & mystery that have been & continue to be best-sellers. Mysteries seem particularly suited to wrestle with issues of good & evil, right & wrong, & Koontz has great insight that is applicable in the world we live in as well as in the imagined worlds of his stories.
In his best-selling Life Expectancy, the main character reflects on the nature of evil: "During the past few hours, I had come to believe in the reality of Evil for the first time in my twenty years. I believed suddenly not merely in evil as a necessary antagonist in movies & books -- bad guys & boogeymen -- not merely in evil as the consequence of parental rejection or parental indulgence or social injustice, but in Evil as a presence alive in the world.
"It is a presence that tirelessly romances & beguiles, but it cannot consummate a relationship until invited to do so. [The man who is trying to kill him] might have been raised by an evil man, might have been instructed in the linguistics of evil, but ultimately the choice of how to live was his alone
"My gratification at the sight of his suffering might have been unwholesome, corrupting, but I don't believe that it was itself a small evil. At the time it felt -- and even now feels -- like righteous satisfaction prompted by this proof that evil has a price to extract from those who embrace it & that resistance to it, while costly, might have a lower cost than acquiescence" (179).
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26