Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sheep in the midst of wolves

Shalom in Christ Jesus,Rosh Hashanah is on Thursday (Wednesday night), 1 Tishrei 5768 (September 13, 2007).This edition of focusing on persecution covers a few notable trends that we as believers need to pay attention to and stay ever vigilant in our prayers and study of the scripture.The first article concerning forced Muslim conversion is encouraging, but taken as a whole with the articles that refer to South Korea promising not to continue missionary work in Afghanistan and reports 16 through 23 cause me concern that anything considered "radical" will eventually be targeted. That will include true Bible believing Christians because they do not compromise their beliefs and so will be deemed "radicals" and targeted for elimination along with radical Islam and Jews making way for a one world Mystery Babylon that is already coming together as Satan's masterpiece counterfeit.You will notice that the greatest persecution of Christians is still in the third world countries but it is gaining steam in the West especially here in the US.Another trend that continues to grow is the attack of the serpent (deception) alongside the dragon (persecution). In article 13 a Valedictorian sues over her gospel graduation speech but we find out in the article that she is now attending liberal and falling away Wheaton College whose president just signed a letter among 34 other evangelicals against Israel's biblical right to their land. This is a trend that will only get worse as the day draws near.I have also included a story that just broke this week in my hometown Syracuse, where some apparent "prophets" went loony in a synagogue. These sorts of incidents will only fuel the ramifications that fall upon the true church.BE/\LERT!Ed. Note: This prayer request came in concerning one of our Moriel Missionaries and it inadvertently was lost in the mounds of emails I receive. Although this particular situation has passed, please keep all of our missionaries and missions in your prayers.Prayer Request for Moriel Missionaries Today my son Miguel Hayworth (brother of Salvador, a Moriel Missionary in S. Africa) was threatened on two occasions by the same man whilst preaching the Gospel on the streets of Manchester UK. This Moslem fanatic threatened to, "slit his throat," "cut him up into tiny pieces," and "knock his teeth out" if he saw him preaching in the name of Jesus, mention Islam, Mohammed and Allah.This same individual had threatened Miguel once before a few weeks earlier, that time he was holding a small infant in his arms but was too wound up to care if the child was injured or not.He used such foul language and called Miguel a "Zionist Jew," which is funny really as Miguel is half Anglo Saxon, a quarter Portuguese and the other quarter Chinese!The threat was real enough for us to report the incident to the authorities.Please pray for us as we continue to declare the Name of Jesus Christ in spite of the threats and intimidation.John HayworthMatthew 5:10-12"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matthew 10:16"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.Revelation 6:9-11When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.Matthew 24:9"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.Philippians 1:27-30Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

1) Petition: U.N. must address forced conversions to Islam
'If governments abridge right to choose religion, how can this right be considered universal?'WORLDNETDAILY - September 9, 2007Headlines this week reported that Migsti Haile, a 33- year-old Christian woman, was tortured to death in Eritrea for refusing to recant her faith, and the European Center for Law and Justice is asking the United Nations to address what it described as the growing problem of forced religious conversions around the world. "We had been getting notification from lawyers and human rights groups that this issue was growing, and we thought it was high time that the United Nations address it," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ECLJ as well as the organization's U.S. affiliate, the American Center for Law and Justice, told WND. He said the problem is not necessarily always national governments, but local governments and area factions, which are "putting pressure" on people and "threatening people with up to death if they don't renounce their conversion to Christianity."The ECLJ, since it is officially recognized as a non- governmental organization in special consultative status by the United Nations, now has petitioned the organization's Human Rights Council to address the situation. "We would like to draw the Council's attention to the growing number of violations of the fundamental right to freedom of religion that are occurring around the world, specifically the right to choose one's religion and change one's religious affiliation," the written statement said. "Forced religious conversions and punishment for voluntary conversions are commonplace in many countries. Laws against apostasy, blasphemy, or proselytizing are used in conjunction with anti- conversion laws to create an atmosphere hostile to members of the majority faith who voluntarily convert to another religion," the organization said. Sekulow told WND that the problem is growing significantly in the Middle East, although total numbers are impossible to cite since so many of the cases end with the death of the person who converted from Islam, or refused to recant a conversion to Christianity. "A lot of these cases go unreported," Sekulow told WND. "We think it's pretty significant." He cited situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt as among those he's heard concerns about just recently.The Compass Direct News report said Haile was one of 10 single Christian women arrested at a church gathering in Keren who have spent 18 months under severe pressure. The report said last February, Magos Solomon Semere also died under torture at the Adi- Nefase Military Confinement facility near Assab, and last October, two other Christians died from torture wounds. The report said Haile died at the Wi'a Military Training Center, where she was being detained. "As the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (Asma Jahangir) has observed, 'questions related to change of religion are at the very heart of the mandate on freedom of religion or belief,'" the NGO's petition said. It cited other recent cases:
Just last month Fatah officials reported Hamas gunmen abducted a university dean in the Middle East and forced her to convert from Christianity to Islam. "Sources close to the family said that she would not willingly convert to Islam and she had 'called her parents to say she was being held against her will in order to marry a Muslim man---'"
India in just the past few days has begun considering new anti-conversation legislation. That's in a nation where many states already have instituted laws "that allow the government to accept or reject the legitimacy of religious conversions."
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have used India's models as the basis for their own laws. "Under the auspices of upholding anti-conversion laws, arrests and private acts of violence have contributed to the degradation of religious freedom."
"In the last few months, the first Muslim-born Egyptian to challenge that country's restrictions on conversion away from Islam filed suit in the Egyptian court system to have his conversion from Islam to Christianity recognized by the government after the Interior Ministry refused to change the religion on his identification card. According to recent reports, the individual has since gone into hiding due to numerous death threats made against him, and his first two lawyers withdrew from representation due to alleged harassment by the government." The NGO petition said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations and endorsed by most of the offending nations, recognizes that "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and "freedom of opinion and expression" are among the most fundamental of human rights. Such rights also are enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (1950), Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) and other U.N. documents. "If governments may abridge the right to choose one's religion by relying upon regional practices or religious doctinres, how can this right be considered universal?" the NGO petition said. The organization suggested the granting of the authority to investigate the claims, and a request to all religious leaders "to recognize the right to choose one's religion." There also needs to be a provision that encourages governments to recognize voluntary conversions and prevent coercion, the NGO said.
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2) Iraq: 36 church members disappear, 1 returns
Minister warns of increased persecution of ChristiansWORLDNETDAILY - September 1, 2007Three dozen members of one Christian church in Iraq disappeared over the course of a week, and only one returned, according to a minister who is warning of the increase of persecution of Christians in that violence- ridden nation. The warning from Rev. Canon Andrew White is being reported by Voice of the Martyrs, the ministry to persecuted Christians around the world. VOM cited an interview with White on in which the Anglican minister from Baghdad was describing the conditions for Iraqi Christians for a committee on religious freedom. He said kidnappings, torture and executions of Christians are rising. He also noted the people's desire for Christ sometimes is overwhelming. The small church he leads in Baghdad was small, but has exploded to an attendance of more than 1,300 recently."It is an Anglican church, and none of my people are Anglicans," he said. "They simply come to church because it is the closest church to come to in the midst of great danger."But White said the conditions have deteriorated at an increasing pace in the past few months, and it's sometimes hard to quantify the extent of the persecution. But he said he asked members of his congregation for their perspective on the situation. "Things are bad for everybody in Iraq. I said them (church members); tell me what has happened over the past week. And the people went through what had happened and I realized that 36 of my congregation in that past week [had] been kidnapped," White said. Only one was returned. During his testimony before the commission, he said although Christianity has been present in Iraq from the "foundation" of the faith - ever since Thomas stopped off in Nineveh and converted the people of the city to Christianity - none of its historic tribulations compares to the troubles today. "In the past few months many Christians have had to leave their places of residence, especially in Dora on the outskirts of Baghdad," he said. "In Dora, many people were threatened with death if they did not convert to Islam or pay large sums [in Islamic tax]. There are now hundreds of Christians living in churches in Baghdad, where the provision of food and water is becoming increasingly difficult." As WND has reported, radical Islamists in the region have been documented to be using a video of an actual beheading to terrorize Christians into leaving. "In the past few months Christians have become a specific target," he said. "They have become targets of murder, kidnapping and torture. Sadly, there are multiple examples of this. Thirty-six of my own congregation have been kidnapped. To date, only one has been returned." The reasons given for the attacks including not being Muslim, and belonging to a Western religion, even though that is not accurate, he said. - - - -
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3) Video of beheading used to threaten Christians
3rd-generation homeowners flee from Islamic warningWORLDNETDAILY - August 16, 2007An international ministry organization reaching out to Christians in Iraq is confirming the pressure from Muslims on Christians to abandon their faith or their homes is rising, with videos of actual beheadings used to threaten believers. The reports come from Open Doors USA, which has had an arm of help reaching into Iraq for several decades. The newest report from the organization describes the experience of Iraqi Christian dentist Shamir (a pseudonym). He got a letter condemning him for not being a Muslim. "It said that he was impure because he was not a Muslim. It said he should leave the country immediately or face the consequences. And if he and his family hadn't left their house within eight hours, they would die," the report said."He felt rage and fear. Leave the house where his family lived for three generations! He had lived in Dora his whole life. It was the Christian district of Baghdad. Who did those guys think they were?" continue the report. "He remembered the story of one of his neighbors. They had not fled when the first letter appeared. After a few days, armed men came in and killed their dog. His neighbors left their house the same day. Within a few hours a Muslim family moved into the house." Then, the report said, "Shamir" picked up a DVD enclosed with the letter. "The DVD started with some verses from the Quran. Then he saw a young man sitting on his knees. The man was interrogated by an armed man wearing balaclavas (headgear covering the entire head, exposing only the face or upper part of it). The young man said he was a Christian. He lived and worked in Baghdad. Then the men explained to him that he was going to die. "Shamir had not heard his wife coming in. 'What are you watching, Shamir?' she asked, but her question went unanswered as he vomited. Before their eyes, the young man was beheaded. Amal was sick, too. 'We have to flee,' Shamir whispered. 'Pack only what is really necessary.'" Open Doors reported that within six hours Shamir was driving to Kurdistan with all that he possessed, completing his journey at an unheated home in a mountain village where his children cannot go to school because they don't speak the language. Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra told WND that the situation is just one of many similar situations he's heard, and they come from reliable ministry sources within Iraq. Ministry volunteers, he said, report what they see and hear to various country or region directors for Open Doors, who forward it to the United States as part over "overview" reports on what is going on. Open Doors said it estimates about 3,000 refugees flee each day to northern Iraq, and 40 percent of those are Christians. "These figures are based on information from inside Iraq and other sources, but are very difficult to verify," the ministry said. "The figures are a good indication, however, of the present situation of the church in Iraq." The organization said historically Christian neighborhoods, such as Dora, now have been "religiously cleansed" of most Assyrian Christians. Christian churches also have been targeted by vandals, and in Mosul, a Christian told Open Doors how his brother-in-law had been forced to pay $4,000 a month to a Muslim group to continue his business.Then the brother-in-law was kidnapped, and his family got a demand for $600,000. "They have managed to raise $150,000 so far, but this was not enough for the group holding him. Negotiations were continuing with this man, but it's likely his brother-in-law has been murdered," Open Doors said. Outright murders also are haunting the Christian community. "On June 3 --- Father Ragheed Keni, pastor of the Holy Spirit Church in the Al-Noor neighborhood of Mosul, was murdered along with his deacons by unidentified gunmen immediately after the Sunday Mass," Open Doors said. The organization estimates 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, and another 200 million to 400 million face discrimination and alienation.
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4) Radicals threaten to burn Christian pastor
Church congregation ejected, building vandalized with 'Om' symbolWORLDNETDAILY - September 8, 2007Religious radicals have threatened to burn a Christian church's pastor and his family, and the church building was vandalized with a Hindu "Om" symbol, according to the Voice of the Martyrs, the worldwide ministry to persecuted Christians. It's just the latest attack by Hindus on Christians around the world that Voice of the Martyrs has documented. Just weeks earlier, another church leader in India was attacked, beaten and kicked for being Christian. In the latest attack, VOM sources within India reported that the attackers were members of the Hindu organization Hindu Ikyavedi. Before the attack, Pastor Koshy Thomas and members of his family had been warned to stop holding worship services in their facility in Bangalore.A short time later the warnings turned into threats."Two members of the Hindu radical organization Hindu Ikyavedi threatened to burn Pastor Thomas and his family to death if they did not vacate their home and stop worship services," VOM sources reported. Only a day later the radicals "barged into a prayer meeting, abused the believers using filthy language and assaulted the pastor's wife and another believer. They snatched a Bible from another man's hand and threw it out of the building," VOM's sources reported. The Christians were ejected from the building, and then the building itself was vandalized. "The radicals vandalized the church building by drawing Hindu symbols, the trishul, swastika, Sanskritic Om and slogans such as 'Jai Shri Ram and Hindu Dharma is ours, who is Yesu?'" VOM reported. "They also conducted a Hindu religious rite inside the church and locked it."Thomas has been pastoring the church, which includes about 50 members, for about a year, VOM said. "Pray God protects and provides for the pastor and believers in this area. Ask God to use the testimonies of Christians in India to draw non-believers into fellowship with Him," VOM said.VOM said the earlier attack involved Pastor Pabitra Kata who was hospitalized with his injuries. Voice of the Martyrs said about three dozen Hindus attacked the pastor while he was returning from the home of a convert he'd been ministering to."He was beaten with thick sticks, kicked on his jaw and face and dragged on the road," according to statements obtained by VOM from witnesses. "He was screaming because of the pain and praying out loud, asking God to forgive the attackers. "He was bleeding profusely from his jaw and ear, and was unable to see. In spite of his painful cries, the attackers continued striking him until the police arrived and stopped the beating," the sources reported.He remains alive only because of that reluctant intervention, because VOM sources reported that after the attack it was discovered the extremists planned to murder him, then make a false report claiming he had died in an automobile accident.Even within the United States, there have been attacks, although verbal instead of phsycial. As WND reported, the Hindu American Foundation has attacked Christian organizations ranging from the Southern Baptists' missions board and Gospel for Asia to Olive Tree Ministries, which aims to teach Christians about their beliefs. - - - -
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5) Egyptian Christians facing deportation
Homeland considers them 'enemies of state' for seeking religious asylumWORLDNETDAILY - August 30, 2007Volunteers assembling a campaign to try to prevent the scheduled deportation of an Egyptian Christian couple say the need is urgent, because the couple sought religious asylum in the United States and that automatically makes them enemies of the state in Egypt. The campaign is on behalf of Onsy Zachary and his wife Fadia, who have been living in the United States since 1998. Their supporters say they could be deported as early as the middle of September. If returned to Egypt, they fear their Christian faith and statements concerning the punishments they fear will prompt the government, which formally acknowledges Islam's Quran as its source of law, to resort to torture as has been documented in other cases. In fact, a U.S. District Court judge in another case on which WND has reported ordered the deportation of another Egyptian Christian blocked, concluding that Egypt's diplomatic assurances it won't torture Christians aren't reassuring, and the man in question "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured." - - - -
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6) Pakistan: Religious Minorities Told To Convert Or Die
Christians remain fearful after deadline passes for converting to IslamCOMPASS DIRECT - August 16, 2007ISTANBUL - Christians and Hindus in northern Pakistan have received dozens of letters threatening them with death if they refuse to become Muslims, church sources and a police official said yesterday. Police continued to provide security around churches and temples this week, even as Christians received new deadlines for converting to Islam. Though the original August 10 deadline for conversion has passed, Peshawar's minorities continue to live in fear, canceling church activities and skipping services, a Catholic priest said. A spokesman for the Church of Pakistan said that on August 7 some of the letters had been thrown into the courtyards of Christian and Hindu homes in Peshawar's Kohati, Interior City and Cantonment districts. Peshawar Catholic priest Yousaf Amanat said that he had received a letter by mail telling him to convert to Islam by Tuesday (August 14). "I was away from the parish, and when I came on Monday evening the post was on my desk," Amanat said. "It was written that if we don't become Muslim we will be killed." - - - -
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7) Laos: Hmong Christians Killed, Imprisoned In Crackdown
Vietnamese, Lao forces searching rice paddies and mountains and shooting on sightCOMPASS DIRECT - August 7, 2007LOS ANGELES -- Soldiers, police and others have killed at least 13 Christians in Laos in the past month in a swarming crackdown on Hmong villagers falsely accused of stirring rebel dissent, sources told Compass. In the sweep, encouraged by communist village leaders and others who have falsely accused the Christians of joining the separatist forces of Gen. Vang Pao, authorities have arrested and imprisoned about 200 members of a 1,900-strong church in Ban Sai Jarern village, Bokeo province in northwestern Laos. Among those killed last month was Neng Mua, a Christian who slipped back to his native Fay village after hiding in the mountains from the police round-up. On July 7 he went to a local villagerï's house to beg for food, but his one-time friend instead shot him dead as a suspected member of the "liberation army," a Christian source said. Police have searched intensively for Christians in rice fields and mountains and are shooting them on sight, said the source, who requested anonymity. "Many Christians were killed and badly injured," he said. "Women and children were arrested and sent to prison."
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8) Taliban frees remaining 7 S. Korean captives
Last hostages, 2 women and 1 man, walked out of desert covered in dustASSOCIATED PRESS - August 30, 2007JANDA, Afghanistan - Taliban militants on Thursday released the final seven South Korean captives they had been holding, bringing an end to a six-week hostage drama, witnesses said.The captives were handed over to Reto Stocker, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan, in two stages on a road in Ghazni province in central part of the country, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.Two men and two women were released first. Hours later, two women and one man who were covered in dust walked out of the desert, accompanied by three armed men, and also were turned over to waiting ICRC officials a few miles from the earlier site. - - - -
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9) Korea churches to end missionary work in Afghanistan
REUTERS - August 29, 2007South Korean missionary groups said they would pull out of Afghanistan to comply with a deal Seoul struck with Taliban insurgents for the release of 19 Christian volunteers held for almost six weeks.Relatives of the hostages, who erupted in joyous cheers on hearing the news of the deal, were meanwhile eagerly awaiting their release and return."Our work for now will be to make sure the freed hostages return safely and have the time to recover, and to make sure the family members of the two who were sacrificed are comforted," said pastor Bang Yong-kyun at the Saemmul Church in suburban Seoul.The 23 volunteers sent to Afghanistan by the Saemmul Church were seized on July 19 from a bus in Ghazni province.The insurgents killed two male hostages early on in the crisis, but released two women as a gesture of goodwill during a first round of negotiations.The Taliban said they would release the remaining 19 provided Seoul pulls out its troops and stops Korean missionary work in Afghanistan by the end of this year.South Korea had already decided before the crisis to withdraw its contingent of about 200 military engineers and medical staff from Afghanistan by the end of 2007. - - -South Korea's churches said the kidnapping had led evangelical groups to rethink their missionary zeal.The National Council of Churches in Korea, one of the largest groups representing the country's Protestants, said in a statement it would abide by the government's pledge to end missionary work in Afghanistan. - - - -AlsoAfghanistan: Korean Christians Critical Of Missionary Ban Development work suffers from loss of South Korean volunteers. COMPASS DIRECT - September 11, 2007ISTANBUL - More than a week after the Taliban released Korean aid workers in Afghanistan, some South Korean Christians are critical of their government's ban on missionary travel to the country. They claim that the ban limits religious freedom and encourages extremist attacks on Christians around the globe. A Taliban spokesman said last week that his group would continue kidnapping foreigners because they had found it to be an effective tactic, according to Agence France-Press. Choi Han Eu, president of the Institute for Asian Culture and Development, told Compass that carrying out religious activities is a basic human right that must be protected. "In Iraq, in Somalia or any other country where there is a dangerous situation, will Christians not be able to go there if it is a Muslim country?" said Choi. Christian sources said the ban has curtailed almost all development work by Koreans in Afghanistan.
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10) Traveling Americans threatened with Bible confiscation
National airline warns also about ban on crucifixes, Stars of DavidWORLDNETDAILY - August 9, 2007Saudi Arabia has launched a series of initiatives to lure tourists, but the Muslim kingdom continues to prohibit Jews and Christians from bringing in Bibles, crucifixes and Stars of David, threatening to confiscate them on sight. The Jerusalem Post reported the website of the country's national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, declared: "A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations." The website - after referring to a prohibition on narcotics, firearms and pornography - states: "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others." The Jerusalem paper said it confirmed the rule in a conversation with a Saudi Arabian Airlines employee in New York, who would only give her name as Gladys. "Yes, sir," she said, "that is what we have heard, that it is a problem to bring these things into Saudi Arabia, so you cannot do it."An official at the Saudi Consulate in New York, who declined to give her name, also confirmed "you are not allowed to bring that stuff into the kingdom." "If you do, they will take it away," she warned, adding, "If it is really important to you, then you can try to bring it and just see what happens, but I don't recommend that you do so." The Post asked the consular official to explain the policy. "Every country has rules about what can or cannot enter," she said. The paper said the Saudi government-run Supreme Commission for Tourism is trying to boost the number of foreign tourists annually to 1.5 million by 2020. Initiatives include issuing group visas to foreigners through tour operators and granting longer entry visas. As WND reported in 2004, when Saudi Arabia announced a new policy to allow tourists, it brought attention to the official Supreme Commission for Tourism's website, which explicitly stated Jews were barred from applying for visas. But after WND published a story about the site's contents, the reference to Jews was eliminated, and the Saudi Embassy in Washington insisted the Islamic kingdom does not bar anyone on the basis of religion or ethnicity. The website originally said the following people are not allowed in the country:
An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp.
Those who don't abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors.
Those under the influence of alcohol ---
Jewish People
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11) Chinese house-church activist freed
Was accused of obstruction of justice, sentenced after secret trialWORLDNETDAILY - July 28, 2007A leader in China's Christian house church movement - arrested earlier apparently as part of a government campaign to eliminate messages contrary to official publicity as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach - has been freed from prison.According to reports from China Aid Association, Hua Huiqi was released just days ago after serving about six months in jail. He had been in custody, according to reports from Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization that works in support of persecuted Christians around the world, since he and his 76-year-old mother were arrested for the apparent offense of walking near a construction site for a hotel being built in preparation for the Olympics. VOM said Hua was arrested in February by the Beijing Public Security Bureau Chaoyang Branch and his mother arrested by Beijing Security Bureau Chongwen Branch. They had been injured in January when seven police officers attacked them while they were walking near the hotel construction site in Beijing, and were taken into custody when they ventured there a second time. - - - -
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12) US: Giving out Gospel tracts becomes a federal case
67-year-old man jailed 2 days for violating 'parade' ordinanceWORLDNETDAILY - August 24, 2007A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 67-year-old Georgia man who was arrested, held in jail for two days and convicted without being given access to a lawyer for passing out Gospel tracts on a public street. The action was brought by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Fredric Baumann, who was arrested on the orders of police chief Mike Eason. The ADF said a Georgia Superior Court earlier this month agreed to its request to overturn the conviction of Baumann, "a Christian man whom Cumming police arrested in April for passing out religious literature on a public sidewalk." "Christians have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America and cannot be treated as second-class citizens," ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman said. "The government should not force them to get special permission before practicing their constitutional right to free speech."The fact that the court dismissed the charges against Mr. Baumann is not just significant for him but for all citizens who cherish their First Amendment rights," he said. - - -Bauman had been arrested April 22 for handing out the tracts outside the City of Cumming fairgrounds. Police told Baumann he was violating a city ordinance requiring organizations to obtain a permit prior to such activities. However, the ADF said, the permit lacked definitions for its provisions, and then said it only applied to private organizations or groups of three or more persons. The man asked several times to see the ordinance, but was refused. He then served two days in jail and was convicted before a municipal court judge, who sentenced him to time already served. The trial came without notification to Baumann, so he had no opportunity to seek legal counsel, the ADF said. "City officials not only acted illegally when they arrested Mr. Baumann, they denied him his constitutional right to due process under the law," Cortman said. "We are glad that this injustice has now been reversed and that Mr. Baumann's right to free speech has been affirmed." The subsequent civil rights action, then, seeks to have the ordinance, which prosecutors later admitted did not apply to Baumann, struck down. It also is seeking compensatory damages as well as punitive damage from the city. "The city denied Mr. Baumann his constitutional right to free speech and due process under the law. We are filing a civil lawsuit to have the city's unconstitutional ordinance struck from the books so this doesn't happen again to Mr. Baumann or anyone else," Cortman said. The complaint alleges violations of free speech, due process and equal protection provisions as well as false arrest and false imprisonment. The actual city rule reads, in its pertinent part: "Every private organization or group of private persons who wishes to use public property or public roads within the municipal limits of Cumming, Georgia, for private purposes in holding a parade, assembly, demonstration, road closing, or other activity is hereby required to have a permit from the City for the privilege of engaging in any such activity within the City, unless such a permit is prohibited under State law or the activity is otherwise exempted by law, ordinance, or other valid regulation." It also defines "private organization or group of private persons" as "any firm, partnership, corporation, association, or group of individuals more than three in number, or their representatives, acting as a unit." The law firm said besides the constitutional issues, the law on its face didn't apply to Baumann as an individual. The lawsuit said Bauman handed out tracts to people willing to take them, without using any amplification or hindering traffic in any way. "At approximately 1:15 p.m., Mr. Baumann observed Chief of Police Mike Eason speaking to Mr. Baumann's acquaintance who was distributing religious literature on the public sidewalk near Gate C. Mr. Baumann approached the pair and learned of Chief Eason's demand that the two men immediately leave the vicinity for 'demonstrating without a permit,' Mr. Baumann politely inquired of Chief Eason as to whether the two men possessed a constitutional right to peaceably distribute religious literature on the public side," the filing said. "Chief Eason, visibly irritated at Mr. Baumann's inquiry, abruptly stated: 'Well, I guess he wants to get arrested.' Immediately Chief Eason ordered Mr. Baumann to be placed under arrest for 'demonstrating without a permit' so as to constitute an 'illegal demonstration.'" The case said Baumann never was informed of his right to obtain counsel, nor did he have an opportunity to post bail. "While incarcerated, Mr. Baumann requested use of his his reading glasses so that he could read his Bible ...; this request was denied," the filing said. He also was denied an opportunity for exercise "to offset a medical condition that causes chest congestion when he remains sedentary." Then without advance notice, he was taken to court where he asked the charges to be dismissed. Instead, the court listened to Eason's testimony and convicted Baumann.
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13) US: Valedictorian sues over Gospel speech
Diploma withheld until she apologized for declaring Christian faithWORLDNETDAILY - August 30, 2007A high school valedictorian is suing a Colorado school district because she was forced to publicly apologize for declaring her Christian faith and inviting students to respond to the Gospel in a speech at her graduation ceremony. Erica Corder, who graduated from Lewis-Palmer High School near Colorado Springs in 2006, alleges in a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel that the school violated her civil rights. Corder says officials withheld her diploma until she issued an apology, and the school "continues to portray her as a student who engaged in improper conduct because she mentioned Jesus Christ during her speech." District spokeswoman Robin Adair, Supt. Raymond Blanch and Board President Jes Raintree did not return phone messages, according to the local newspaper, the Gazette. But the paper reported Adair said in an e-mail the district had reviewed the situation. "We are confident that all actions taken by school officials were constitutionally appropriate. As a result, we intend to vigorously defend the claims," the e-mail said.The action contends Corder's First Amendment rights of free speech were violated when school officials "refused to present her with her diploma unless she issued an apology for mentioning Jesus Christ." It alleges a violation of the 14th Amendment right to equal protection because officials treated religious speech "differently" than nonreligious speech. Liberty Counsel said before graduation in May 2006, Principal Mark Brewer told the valedictorians they could choose one student to speak, or all 15 could deliver 30-second messages. The students chose to all participate and picked a general topic for each speaker. Corder and one other student were assigned to deliver concluding messages. The law firm said each valedictorian gave a proposed speech to the principal ahead of the graduation. Then during her 30-second message, Corder added some comments about her faith in Jesus. "We are all capable of standing firm and expressing our own beliefs, which is why I need to tell you about someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine. He died for you on a cross over 2,000 years ago, yet was resurrected and is living today in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ. If you don't already know him personally I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice he made for you so that you now have the opportunity to live in eternity with him."After the graduation ceremony, she was escorted to see an assistant principal, who told her she would not get her diploma because of her speech. Principal Brewer said her comments were "immature" and advised her she only would get her diploma if she apologized to the "school community," Liberty Counsel said. Because she feared the school actually would withhold her diploma and that officials would put disciplinary notes in her file and generate negative publicity that could affect her plans to become a teacher, she wrote a statement that the message was her own and not endorsed by the principal. Then Brewer demanded she include the words: "I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did," Liberty Counsel said. Corder and her parents met several times with school officials, without resolution, and Liberty Counsel eventually wrote to the school on their behalf, explaining the First Amendment violations and requesting an apology from the district for the forced e- mail. "The school board has thus far taken no remedial steps. Meanwhile, Erica continues to be the subject of public criticism from school officials," the lawsuit said. "Valedictorians have the right to express their religious viewpoints while at the graduation podium," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "School officials have no right to threaten young graduates that their diplomas will be withheld. The school district's action in forcing Erica Corder to write an e-mail apologizing to the community for exercising her right to free speech is shocking." Corder, 19, now is a student at Illinois' Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school. She told the Gazette she wants the district to understand what happened to her was wrong. Her father, Steven, said the lawsuit was a last resort, after the district declined to respond to any other requests. - - - -
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14) US: School backtracks, will allow Bible reading
3rd-grader had been told Scriptures not allowed in classroomWORLDNETDAILY - By Jennifer Carden - July 26, 2007School officials in Chicago have backtracked on their ban on Bible reading during free "reading time" for a third grade class, assuring the student's parents that their ban based on the bogus separation of church and state was nothing more than a "misunderstanding." Rhajheem Haymon was silently reading his Bible as his classmates pored over the reading materials of their choice when his substitute teacher informed him that he could not read that particular book in the classroom. Aware his parents desired that all of the Haymon children read their Bible every day, Rhajheem went home that day and informed them he was no longer allowed to do so.When Rhajheem's father, Leslie Haymon, followed up with questions to a substitute teacher and other school officials, they confirmed that Rhajheem was not allowed to read the Bible during reading time, as the church and state must remain separate in the classroom. Haymon then called Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., which defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians through education, litigation, and related activities. Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the center, immediately sent school officials a demand letter on behalf of the family. He explained the United States Supreme Court and the United States Department of Education have assured that students are free to express their religious views while at school, a freedom that includes a student's choice to read religious materials in appropriate times at school. "The law is clear here," White explained to WND, "And not only the case law; a few years back, the Department of Education shipped out guidelines concerning constitutionally protected religious activities, which say that students may pray and read their Bibles with other students in non-instructional times." "During lunch, a student is free to talk about how well the Chicago Cubs are doing, just as another kid is free to talk about Jesus. During reading time, when students are reading 'Harry Potter' or whatever else, Rhajheem has the right to read his Bible to himself," White stated. White also noted in his letter that a public school may not suppress or exclude the speech or expression of individual students for the sole reason that the speech is religious or contains a religious perspective. "A lot of times what we experience is that there's a knee-jerk reaction against anything religious and generally dealing with Christianity," said White. "School officials forget that these sorts of actions are by private individuals, not by teachers trained to tread carefully in matters of the church and state." "Even a third-grader is a private citizen with constitutional rights," he continued. Soon after receiving the letter, the school district sent written assurances that Rhajheem could bring his Bible to school and read it at appropriate times during the school day. White said the letter essentially tried to smooth over the situation, advising, "Regardless of whatever happened, of course he's able to read his Bible, as long as he's not disruptive." In a statement, Leslie Haymon expressed his thanks for White's assistance. "I thank [the Thomas More Law Center] for protecting our rights as Christians and as Americans. I thank God for the work of the Thomas More Law Center," he said.
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15) US: Kindergarten cops rule: Witches in, Bibles out
'Sounds the death knell for religious freedom'WORLDNETDAILY - August 31, 2007A court decision that opens the doors of Culbertson Elementary School in Pennsylvania to books about witches - but rejects the Bible as being too "proselytizing" - is being challenged. The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund has submitted amicus briefs in a lawsuit filed when a kindergarten student, under an assignment in which parents were invited to read their child's favorite book, was denied permission to have his mother read a Bible story. A decision in U.S. District Court that sided with the school's decision to ban the Bible reading, while allowing teachers to suggest reading books about "witches and Halloween," effectively "sounds the death knell for religious freedom in public schools," the ADF argues."By transmuting private religious speech into government speech, granting school officials carte blanche authority to determine what religious speech is 'too religious,' and holding that a school's desire to avoid a perceived Establishment Clause violation justifies viewpoint discrimination, the lower court's opinion permits a blatant violation of the Constitution," the group said. "The school's decision to ban religious speech is nothing more than blatant viewpoint discrimination," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "This was not about proselytizing anyone," continued ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "It was about letting students tell the class about what things are important to them, and the Bible is important to this student." The classroom assignment was called "All About Me," and was intended to provide an opportunity for children to "identify individual interests and learn about others," the ADF said. The activity at the school - which lists an unspecified "religious holiday" in September but a "winter recess" in December - allowed students to talk about their interests through the use of their favorite stuffed animals, posters, snacks and games and books. When his turn came, Culbertson Elementary student Wesley Busch asked his mother to read from his favorite book, the Bible. But the ADF said school officials told Donna Kay Busch that the school viewed the Bible as "proselytizing" and as "promoting a specific religious point of view," banning it from the class.Officials with the Marple Newtown School District had defended their actions as reasonable, and the trial court judge agreed. However, the ADF's brief argued "the lower court's radical departure from settled First Amendment law poses a serious threat to religious expression." The brief noted that the school allowed discussion of religion in the "All About Me" assignment. "Because Wesley liked to go to church, he created a poster that included a picture of a church with the words, 'I like to go to church' below it. This poster was displayed on the wall." But the Bible reading Wesley requested was rejected because the Bible promotes "a specific religious point of view" and the teacher instead suggested Wesley's mother "read a book 'about witches and Halloween' instead." The ADF said the district court erred in assuming that such private speech would be attributed to the school. "Indeed, the Bible reading at issue in this case is Wesley's speech: his mother came to the class at his request, to read his book selection, so that he could share himself with his classmates," the ADF said. The filing also noted the dangers the district court ruling left in its wake. "The lower court presumes that certain religious speech - i.e., religious speech that crosses some indeterminate threshold where it becomes 'too religious' - automatically violates the Establishment Clause and thus may constitutionally be censored. This holding is plain legal error under controlling precedent. Moreover, it impermissibly interjects government officials into the affairs and doctrines of religion."
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16) US: Christian TV show out, Muslim pressure group blamed
Preacher says CBS 'caved' to demands of Islamic organizationWORLDNETDAILY - August 24, 2007A CBS television station in Tampa, Fla., has announced it is taking the ongoing "Live Prayer with Bill Keller" program, on the airwaves since 2003, off after the local chapter of the Council on American- Islamic Relations complained of the religious views Keller expressed. CAIR-Tampa issued a statement that "WTOG-TV (CS44) dropped 'Live Prayer' after the station and its parent company CBS received a letter from and had discussions with the Islamic civil rights and advocacy group." "It's clear what happened. CAIR pressured CBS in New York to take us off. I have always dealt with the issues of the day from a biblical worldview on my program," Keller told WND. "[The Bible] calls Islam a false religion. They took great offense. CBS caved." Keller, who has been involved in controversy before, said the last show on the old station will be on Friday, Aug. 31, and the following Monday he will launch a morning program on a competing station."We already had our new morning show in the works," he said. WTOG station manager Laura Caruso told the St. Petersburg Times the decision to end Keller's contract was a mutual decision and had nothing to do with complaints from individuals. But CAIR's leaders "say both local and network representatives assured them that the program would no longer air on the station after Sept. 11," according to the Times report. And Keller told WND he didn't go willingly. - - - -
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17) Canada: Christians would rather move than hear evolution
'They have to obey the law in educating their kids,' official saysWORLDNETDAILY - August 17, 2007Fifteen Christian families from a tiny community of only about 1,300 people are making plans to leave their homes and work behind so that their children will not be forced by the Canadian government to attend "sanctioned" schools where evolution is taught.A report in the Vancouver Sun said provincial officials have threatened the families with legal action, including the potential loss of their children to state control, if they do not abide by the mandatory education curriculum. But leaders of the Mennonite families say they'll leave Quebec before giving up their children to the state indoctrination."It's kind of sad because we enjoy the community, we have friends and we have good rapport with our neighbors," said Ronald Goossen, 56, who in the 1990s was among the first Mennonites from Manitoba to move to Roxton Falls, about 75 mile east of Montreal. "But when they threaten to take our children and put them in foster homes, that's beyond what we can accept," he said. - - -Children are taught reading, writing, math, science, geography, social sciences and music, as well as English and French. But they didn't use the government-mandated curriculum that includes the teachings of evolution, and other subjects to which parents objected. So authorities warned the parents they would face legal proceedings if their children were not enrolled in "sanctioned" schools this fall. Goossen said the 30 parents and children in families who would be endangered will move immediately; the rest of the group will follow shortly later. - - - -
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18) Evangelical pastor told to leave Israel
THE JERUSALEM POST - By Etgar Lefkovits - August 16, 2007An American evangelical pastor and his wife who have been living in Israel for nearly two decades have been ordered to leave the country within two weeks, after their request for permanent residency was turned down, officials said on Thursday. Ron Cantrell, 59, and his wife Carol, 54, have run a small Jerusalem-based ministry, Shalom Shalom Jerusalem, for the past four years. Cantrell previously worked for Bridges for Peace, an evangelical organization, for 14 years. Two of the couple's children have married Israelis and have Israeli ID cards.Interior Ministry officials said the decision was made following suspicions that Cantrell was involved in missionary work. The pastor categorically denied the allegations as baseless. Cantrell, who has been active in raising money for Israel as well as working on behalf of Soviet Jews, had resided in Israel on a special clergy visa during his work for Bridges for Peace, but then went back to a regular tourist visa, which needed to be renewed every three or six months, he said. The highly-coveted but sparsely-distributed clergy visa is primarily given to officials from mainstream Christian organizations. Cantrell, who travels extensively on lecture tours, could have continued living in Israel if he had left the country at least once every three months, but said that was an "unworkable solution" for his wife. Cantrell said the Interior Ministry had cited no reason for rejecting the residency request. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said that the couple's request to receive residency status, after residing in Israel for years on various temporary permits, had been brought before all ministry levels up to the acting head of the population authority, who was also the director-general of the office. The request was turned down last month, she said. Ministry officials cited suspicions of missionary work.The Shalom Shalom Jerusalem Web site says that the couple "encourages Christians and Messianic Jewish believers in their understanding of the prophetic Scriptures" and "encourages believers to participate in God's end-time plans by being involved in positive support for the nation of Israel and Jewish communities worldwide --- in the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland." The issue underscored the delicate balancing act evangelical Christian supporters of Israel face, between proselytizing, which is banned in Israel, and their fundamental belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the messiah.
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19) Virginia man indicted for threatening Arabs
ASSOCIATED PRESS - August 15, 2007WASHINGTON - A Virginia man was indicted Wednesday on charges that he left threatening messages at an Arab political organization in the U.S. during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in the Middle East last year.Patrick Syring left phone and e-mail messages last summer with the Arab American Institute saying, "The only good Lebanese is a dead Lebanese. The only good Arab is a dead Arab," federal prosecutors said.At the time, Israeli was bombing targets in Lebanon while Hezbollah was firing rockets into northern Israel. James Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute, criticized the U.S. for not doing enough to protect U.S. citizens visiting family members in Lebanon.Syring, in expletive-laced messages, accused Zogby of being anti-Semitic, prosecutors said."You wicked evil Hezbollah-supporting Arabs should burn in the fires of hell for eternity and beyond," Syring wrote in one e-mail, according the prosecutors. "The United States would be safer without you."Syring, according to an e-mail cited in the indictment, praised Israeli forces for "bombing Lebanon back to the Stone Age where it belongs" and said "Arabs are dogs."Syring faces charges of threatening and violating civil rights laws. The indictment was signed by Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim, the Justice Department's top civil rights prosecutor, and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor. - - - -
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20) Dreams Led 'Prophets' On Mission to Syracuse
THE POST-STANDARD [Advance/Newhouse] (Syracuse, NY) - By Sue Weibezahl - September 13, 2007A mother and daughter from Georgia arrested after disrupting services at two local Jewish temples Saturday claim they are missionaries who travel the world to warn people about their prophetic dreams. They have been arrested in at least two other states, according to police records. Peggy Davidson, 44, and her mother, Judy Overby, 74, have been held at the justice center jail since their arrest Saturday on charges of disrupting a religious service, harassment and falsely reporting an incident. They first went to the Young Israel-Shaarei Torah synagogue at 4313 E. Genesee St. in DeWitt and "became loud and obnoxious," state Trooper Jack Keller said. After they were asked to leave, they apparently went to Temple Adath Yeshurun on Kimber Road in Syracuse. At Temple Adath, they started screaming about redemption and threatened to blow up the temple, Rabbi Charles Sherman told police. Sherman escorted the women out of the building and Syracuse police arrested them. State troopers went to the jail Tuesday night and charged them in connection with the Young Israel incident. "They both said they were homeless and employed as prophets," said Investigator Amy Honors of the state police. "They didn't say how they were funded and we're still looking into whether there was anyone else with them." The women came to Syracuse in a car rented in Pennsylvania. Syracuse police impounded the car; it's unclear who paid for the car. In a newspaper article that appeared June 2004 in News Daily in Clayton County, Ga., Davidson said they receive messages from God on where to go next.The article quoted her as saying they typically don't stay in one place for more than a few days. They stay in motels when they have money and with people who let them stay over when they don't. They said they were non-denominational Christians who have been traveling since 1998 warning about Davidson's dreams. Overby, who formerly worked as an alcohol and drug counselor, said she, too, has prophetic dreams but none of them have come true, the article said. Davidson said she had dreams about Princess Diana's death and the attack on the World Trade Center before those incidents.The women claimed to have traveled to the Middle East and throughout the United States to share their visions. The women told local police they were from McDonough, Ga. They were arrested there in May 2005 and charged with criminal defamation. According to police reports, the women had passed out fliers containing false information about their brother and son, Edward Coleman Padgett, who got a restraining order against them. The following year, they were convicted of invasion of privacy in Vicksburg, Miss., after posting "injurious messages" about a state trooper there, according to the Warren County District Attorney's office. Saturday marked Shabbat Selichot, which is celebrated before Rosh Hashana and includes the reciting of prayers for repentance and forgiveness. Rabbi Sherman said the morning ceremony at the chapel in Temple Adath Yeshurun also included a baby-naming ceremony. It had begun at 9:15 a.m. and the women arrived about a half hour later."They stood up and they looked like they were in a trance," Sherman said. "They were caught up in the babbling and hysteria, staring straight ahead. It was obvious they had done this before." Although Sherman couldn't recall specifically what the women said, he didn't interpret it as an anti-Semitic threat, but perhaps the targeting of beliefs other than their own. City police said the women talked about blowing up Jewish temples and the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic temple built on the site of Solomon's ancient temple in Jerusalem.Sherman went to Davidson and took her by the arm. "I'm Rabbi Sherman," he said he told her. "And I want to tell you what you are doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. It's inappropriate and I'm taking you out right now." Davidson didn't resist, he said. As he was leading her out of the building, he called to others in the congregation to call 911 immediately. The women's car was not parked in the temple lot, but nearby in a restricted area. Sherman said another man escorted Overby outside and members of the congregation got in front of and behind the car to prevent the women from leaving before police arrived. "It was not my responsibility to educate them, interrogate them or tell them how evil they are," he said. "My responsibility was just to get them out of the building." Sherman said he's never experienced such an incident in his 36 years as a rabbi. "If this happened 30 years ago, you'd just think they were wacky people and escort them out," he said. "But in the culture we live in now, you never know, so it's better to err on the side of caution." The women are now being held without bail in the justice center jail's mental health unit. Although they agreed to be interviewed, defense lawyers representing them would not allow it, Deputy Joseph Caruso said. Syracuse and DeWitt judges ordered psychological examinations for the women, police said. State police Capt. Jeff Robb said it may be hard to get answers to the questions people are asking about the the case. "It's certainly bizarre and it is very intriguing," Robb said. The silver lining, Sherman said, is that after the police arrested the women, "Our service went on. It was symbolic, because it means that life goes on. There was a sense of relief and a sense of celebration."
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21) Suspect in church shooting charged
Pastor and two deacons of Micronesian congregation murderedASSOCIATED PRESS - By Marcus Kabel - August 13, 2007NEOSHO, Mo. - Prosecutors filed three murder charges Monday against a Micronesian man accused of opening fire in a church, killing three people and wounding five others during a service for a mostly Micronesian congregation.Prosecutors also charged the man, Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, with assault, felonious restraint for holding the congregation hostage, and armed criminal action. Another assault charge was pending, Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson said.At a news conference, police and prosecutors declined the discuss the motive. But Watson told The Associated Press earlier Monday that the alleged gunman had targeted congregation leaders."I think that you'll find that the victims were what some would term elders or leaders (of the Micronesian congregation)," Watson told The Associated Press earlier in the day. "As information continues to come forward, it appears that the shots that were fired were not random." - - - -AlsoIslanders grieve for 3 slain pastors ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE [WEHCO Media] - By Ginny Laroe - August 19, 2007ANDERSON, Mo. - After the eulogies, after the a cappella hymns in their native tongue, and after hundreds filed out of the funeral home, came the wails. And the screams. And the streams of tears for the three men who were gunned down in their church sanctuary last week. Standing over the open caskets of Kernal S. Rehobson, Intenson Rehobson and Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, the people who were closest to them heaved and wept, still in disbelief of the horror a gunman unleashed on their tight-knit Micronesian community.A gunman barged into the First Congregational Church in Neosho on Aug. 12 and opened fire, killing the three and wounding four others before holding at least two dozen people hostage. - - -The rampage may have been sparked by the accusation levied against Saimon the night before that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who is a member of the church - an accusation authorities say they believe. - - -Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said the night before the rampage, the 14-year-old girl went with her family to a hospital emergency room to report a sexual assault. She named Saimon as the suspect. "There is nothing to indicate she is not telling us the truth," Copeland said last week. He said he anticipated prosecutors filing charges once the investigation is complete. Saimon has denied the allegation, Copeland said. Prior to last Sunday, the only crime authorities say Saimon committed was driving drunk. - - - -
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Suspect in Missouri church shooting charged with rape ASSOCIATED PRESS - August 28, 2007SPRINGFIELD, Missouri: A Micronesian man accused of a deadly shooting spree inside a Missouri church was charged Tuesday in the sexual assault of a 14- year-old girl two days before the shooting.Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, is charged with one count of second-degree statutory rape and one count of second-degree statutory sodomy, both felonies.Saimon already is being held without bond on three counts of murder and related charges for the Aug. 12 shooting at a church service of South Pacific immigrants from Micronesia.In court papers, a sheriff's department investigator said the teenage girl alleged that Saimon was mad at her for stealing his car and wrecking it. The girl said Saimon attacked her as punishment.The alleged assault happened at Saimon's home.Prosecutors have declined to discuss Saimon's motive in the shooting, but family members of the victims have said Saimon was jealous of their standing in the community and feared he might be outcast after the 14-year-old girl made the rape allegation.All three shooting victims were pastors or associate pastors of the Micronesian congregation.Read Full Report
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22) State suspends prisons' special meals for Jews, Muslims
ASSOCIATED PRESS - By Matt Sedensky - August 23, 2007MIAMI -- Jewish inmates who follow strict religious diets at state prisons are no longer provided meals in line with their beliefs. Muslims must now eat vegan food to satisfy their religious requirements.The Corrections Department has ended the Jewish Dietary Accommodation Program, which provided kosher meals to not only Jews, but to Muslims as well, because the state prison system does not offer halal food. Cost -- and fairness -- were cited as factors.``We have 100 faiths represented by DOC inmates, so it would be impossible to satisfy everyone's preferences and unfair to do it for one group and not another,'' agency spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. ``We just have to look at what our mission is and what's best for our overall department and the overall population of inmates in our system instead of a smaller group.''The department has suspended use of pork products in an attempt to appease religious adherents and will continue to serve vegetarian and vegan meals. It said many Jews and Muslims could choose the vegan option, which is free of any animal products, to adhere to their faiths.But for the strict followers of kosher and halal diets, it is far from ideal.Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel in Tallahassee, who was a member of a group that reviewed religious dietary accommodations in prisons, noted that unless the vegan food is prepared separately from other meals, it would not satisfy kosher law. - - - -
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23) Muslim Religious Ban on Leaving Israel
ARUTZ SHEVA - By Hillel Fendel - May 17, 2007Yet another Islamic religious ruling forbidding Moslems from leaving the Holy Land has been issued, this time from the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine. Recently, the Hamas-affiliated Association of Religious Sages of Palestine publicized its ruling forbidding emigration from the lands of the Palestinian Authority. The Mufti of Jerusalem has now joined in, with his own ban, released on Monday, May 14. The rulings are an indication of the great fear in the Arab world that young people from the Palestinian Authority are increasingly seeking their fortunes abroad. - - - -
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