Roberta Dupre (61) and Beverly Stambaugh (55) were convicted yesterday in New York for bilking more than 1,000 investors of almost $2 million in a scheme they said God promised would unlock a supposed secret bank account of former Phillipine leaders Ferdinand and Isabella Marcos. According to the 2 women, if investors gave them enough money, they would be able to pay the bribes and other necessary expenses to get the secret money liberated and God promised to make it all happen. No investor ever received a return, no evidence of the secret account exists, and no evidence showed that the 2 women were even using the money to negotiate any deal.
Instead, they rented a posh $5,000 per month room at a Manhattan hotel and went on personal spending sprees, putting off questioning investors by quoting Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." During the trial defense attorneys argued that the women genuinely believed they were hearing from God and meant no one any harm. The jury took less than 3 hours to conclude they hadn't been listening to God and showed every evidence of concocting a deliberate scam.
Dupre and Stambaugh face a possibility of 20 years in prison at their sentencing January 21. US District Judge Denise Cote revoked their bail, saying that if they were not incarcerated in the meantime, they would continue to defraud investors, some of whom still believe the multi-billion dollar account is going to come through for them.
After striking down special legislation backed by Governor Jeb Bush and the state legislature that prevented Michael Schiavo from withrdrawing his disabled wife Terri's feeding tube and causing her death, the Florida Supreme Court has now refused wthout comment Gov. Bush's request that it reconsider last month's ruling.
For several years Schiavo has been attempting to remove his wife's feeding tube while her parents and advocates for the disabled and those whose lives are medically threatened have been attempting to keep her alive and to provide rehabilitative care denied by her husband.
Terri Schiavo (40) suffered severe brain damage in 1990 and has been severely disabled since then. She and her husband won a large settlement against the doctors and hospital that has been funding her care. The husband has been living with another woman for several years and has children with her.
Although Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, says the court's newest rejection allows them to remove the feeding tube at will, they will not attempt to do so at least until a court hearing scheduled for Friday at which Terri's parents are requesting a new trial to determine their daughter's wishes.
Pope John Paul II has ordered the return of relics from two of the most important early leaders of the Orthodox Church that had been seized by Crusaders in the 13th century. The bones of St. John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen have been in St. Peter's Basilica since the sack of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) by Crusaders in 1204. They will be returned by a Vatican delegation in time for the November Orthodox feast day of Saint Andrew.
When the head of the Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Barthlomew I of Constantinople, visited the pope in June he asked for the relics' return and invited the pope to visit the Orthodox Church headquarters in Istanbul.
The pope's frail health has diminished his travel frequency, but he did visit Istanbul in 1979. Both the patriarch's visit and the return of the relics are meant to underscore both churches' commitment to Christian unity and to restarting stalled theological discussions.
Anxious to ensure that no school activities offend minority groups, one school district in Washington state has decided to ban all Halloween activities out of deference to witches who might be offended by having their status parodied in costuming or decorations. Puyallup School District, south of Seattle, sent a letter home to parents yesterday stating there would be no observance of Halloween in the entire school district. Spokeswoman Karen Hansen said, "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion, and so we want to be respectful of that."
Hansen said the district superintendent made the decision for 3 main reasons: to respect real witches, to avoid wasting classroom time with parties, and to respect families that couldn't afford costumes. Nothing was said about the potential for offending werewolves, presidential candidates, angels, members of royalty, or those whose religious convictions preclude their participation in Halloween festivities.
One year ago the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion (AC), asked his church oversight body, the Lambeth Commission, to prepare a report and recommendation on the ordination of actively gay clergy and the consecration of actively gay clergy to the office of bishop. This request came on the cusp of the American branch of Anglicanism, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), consecrating Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshre. That consecration caused a split not only within the worldwide AC, which is far more conservative than its American counterparts, but also within the ECUSA, which has a considerable number of congregations that believe active gay status and church ministry are incompatible. The Lambeth Commission's report, called the Windsor Report, was released today and contains recommendations sure to be issues of debate among the AC worldwide and among members of the ECUSA. The report recommends that no new ordinations or consecrations of active gays be conducted, that the ECUSA should apologize and ask forgiveness from the wider body for taking actions unacceptable to a large portion of the communion, and that those leaders who made the decision to consecrate Robinson as bishop should resign from their consecration commission membership.
The Windsor Report warns that if those recommendations are not followed, it is nearly certain that there will be irrevocable splits in the AC and the ECUSA. "There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart," the Report declared.
Most of the key individuals and offices involved in the AC and ECUSA have declined to give specific comment until they have thoroughly studied the report. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, noted, "So, there is plenty to digest and there should be no rush to judgement. We want voices round the Communion to be heard and we will be putting in place a careful and wide-ranging process for gathering responses." On a personal note he observed, "I too will continue to pray study and reflect on the report and to seek God's guidance on the fundamental aim of strengthening our understanding and commitment to our common life. I share the Commission's longing for a renewed and re-energised Communion, better able to work in co-operation. May God help us to move towards that goal in faithfulness and confidence."
Speaking in the same spirit as most of the African Anglican churches, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, sounded hopeful about the Report's goal of re-unifying the splintered church: "On first reading, it seems to me that we have been given the rich gift of a deep theological and spiritual reflection on the nature of the common life of God's people, as members of the body of Christ, of the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and of the Anglican Communion. There is so much here which can build up and nurture our common life - we have the chance to make this a 'win-win' opportunity. We must grasp this chance with both hands."
The leader of the ECUSA, the Most Rev. Frank Griswold, in his statement noted that the Commission had worked carefully and prayerfully on the issues at hand. He recognized the division of opinions and practices throughout the worldwide communion. Then he noted what is the substantive view of those who were instrumental in the consecration of Bishop Robinson and which is his own view: "Given the emphasis of the Report on difficulties presented by our differing understandings of homosexuality, as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry. Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are." He has said further comment on the report will be reserved until he has had a chance to study it closely and in consultation with others over the coming months.
The Rev. Martin Reynolds from the UK's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, remarked, "Whilst we are very saddened by the suggestion that bishops who have been supportive of Gene and supported the same-sex blessings should withdraw from the councils of the church, we are very happy with the general tone of the report which is aimed at healing and reconciliation."
When the two presidential candidates were asked about homosexuality at Wednesday's debate, one said we don't know why people are gay, and the other said dogmatically that gays are born that way. While President Bush's ambiguity was more reflective of the inconclusive evidence of science, Senator Kerry's dogmatism not only went beyond the scientific evidence, it offended the increasing numbers of people who proclaim that they have changed their sexual orientation from homosexuality and are now "ex-gays." Jeralee Smith, a self-proclaimed former lesbian who runs a support group for "ex-gay" educators, commented, "I have experienced significant change in my sexual orientation and my feelings."
In Kerry's response, he referred to Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary, when he said that "she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice."
Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and producer of a documentary, "I Do Exist," which chronicles the lives of ex-homosexuals, commented, "Kerry's views, unforntunately, present a view of homosexuality that science does not support. Bush, wisely, has reserved judgment and his views are closer to where science has progressed to at this point. I'm concerned that Kerry misled the country."
Throckmorton continued, "If people are born gay and they're being who they are, then what about all these ex-gays? What about all the people on my film, 'I Do Exist,' who once believed they were born gay, but through a process of change and reflection, now are attracted exclusively to the opposite sex?"
Chad Thompson, who runs a group called Inqueery, helping ex-homosexuals in schools, added, "It sounds like John Kerry is saying that I don't exist. I certainly wouldn't want someone representing me who isn't even willing to acknowledge that I'm here."
Two engineering schools in the Canadian city of Montreal (Quebec province) have refused to rent rooms for Muslim students to use for their prayers during the Muslim holy season of Ramadan, which begins today and lasts one month. The students are instead using the landings in stairwells at the 2 schools.
The schools are secular and say they need make no accommodations for religious practices. A former student and 100 other Muslim students at l' Ecole de Technologie Superieure have taken the school before the Quebec Human Rights Commission for failing to provide the students with a place to pray. The Commission is expected to rule within the next few weeks.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Canada and the largest non-Christian faith in Quebec.
Another school with the same policy is the Ecole Polytechnique. The school's communications director, Chantal Cantin, noted, "We are a secular institution and our mission doesn't include religion. It's education and research."
In opposition, Fo Niemi, a Montreal human rights acitivist, commented, "Being secular doesn't mean one has to ban religion. . . it means our institution shall have no official religion."
Andrew Robinson's wife was tired of her husband's abuse (he was convicted in March 2003 of abuse charges), and thought she had the answer. She told her husband last Sunday that they were going to church "to get the devils out of" their house. When Andrew refused, his wife declared that she would "bring the church to him," and called their pastor. In a rage, Andrew attacked his wife, stabbing her 16 times, and stabbing their 13 year old daughter in the head as she intervened on her mother's behalf. Three children were locked in a closet to keep them from calling the police.
The woman and her daughter survived, and Andrew was charged Thursday in Kenosha County (WI) Circuit Court with 2 counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, mayhem and physical abuse of a child. He faces more than 290 years in prison if convicted on all counts and sentenced to the maximum terms to run consecutively and not concurrently.
Lord Hampton (25), on trial for the brutal murder of a 14 year old pregnant girl near Boston, has said in a letter of apology to his employer that "it wasn't me, but Satan" who murdered Chauntae Jones.
Hampton has taken the stand in his trial in Suffolk Superior Court for the 1999 murder. On the stand he explained his comment in the letter, saying, "It wasn't me, but someone Satan had used to kill Chauntae." He denied any involvement in murdering the girl and then burying her on the grounds of the old Boston State Hospital.
Hampton was accused of the murder and burial with a friend of his, Kyle Bryant (24), who was acquitted in his April trial.
Hampton told prosecutor David Meier from the stand that he had lied to police when he told them he helped Bryant, who, he said, feared a statutory rape charge for impregnating Jones. Hapmton told prosecutor Meier, "I made it up, put it goether, took some facts and took some story," in order to bring the homicide interrogation to an end.
The case is expected to go into jury deliberations by the weekend.
In a surprise move, the US Supreme Court today said it will examine and decide the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government land and buildings. Previously the court has repeatedly refused to examine issues related to their 1980 decision that banned the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. Subsequently, various lower courts have issued different rulings in different cases that at best seem inconsistent, and at worst seem to be contradictory.
The court will examine two cases, one in Kentucky and another in Texas. The Texas case involves a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds and the Kentucky case involves a lower court ruling banning the posting of the Ten Commandments in any Kentucky courthouse.
"The Ten Commandments case could be the blockbuster religious liberty case that the Supreme Court has seen in a really long time," observed Mathew Staver, of the conservative law group Liberty Counsel, which is representing the Kentucky counties that had posted the Commandments in their courthouses. He continued, "It's part of our American heritage. People are upset when they see that being removed."
Hoping the Court will ban any Commandments display in public, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said, "It's clear that the Ten Commandments is a religious document. Its display is appropriate in houses of worship but not at the seat of government."
The Supreme Court chamber where the Justices meet contains a prominent display of a carving of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.
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