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Iceland law to outlaw male circumcision sparks row over religious freedom
Iceland is poised to become the first European country to outlaw male circumcision amid signs that the ritual common to both Judaism and Islam may be a new battleground over religious freedom.
A bill currently before the Icelandic parliament proposes a penalty of up to six years in prison for anyone carrying out a circumcision other than for medical reasons.
Critics say the move, which has sparked alarm among religious leaders across Europe, would make life for Jews and Muslims in Iceland unsustainable. One in three men globally is thought to be circumcised, the vast majority for religious or cultural reasons. Many Jews and Muslims fear the issue of circumcision could become a proxy for antisemitism and Islamophobia, pointing to similar tensions over religious dress and the ritual slaughter of animals for meat. More
Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses break silence on shunning: 'My mother treats me like I'm dead'
Amber Sawyer was just 8 years old when it happened.
She was watching cartoons on the living room floor of her Mississippi home when she heard the bang.
She went to investigate and found her 21-year-old sister, Donna, dead in her bed. She had shot herself in the heart with their father’s hunting rifle weeks after being excommunicated by their church for getting engaged to a non-Jehovah’s Witness.
For Sawyer — who sat on the bedroom floor near her sister's body for hours that day, waiting for her mother to come home from her door-to-door missionary work — it was the beginning of a long, painful journey that would one day tear her family apart. More
People who think about leaving religion but don’t are more likely to feel depressed and hopeless
New research suggests that sticking with a religion you have doubts about is associated with depressive symptoms. The findings were recently published in the journal Society and Mental Health.
“Social scientists give a lot of attention to the nonreligious because of this group’s recent and rapid growth, but even more people consider dropping out of religion and do not actually leave,” said study author Matthew May, an assistant professor of sociology at Oakland University.
“My goal was to understand how these people (stayers) differ from the people who leave (leavers) and the people who do not consider dropping out of religion (stable affiliates).” More
Can Watching Military Videos Stop A Christian’s Porn Addiction?
Do you use internet porn too much? Are you a Christian man? Big fan of war movies? Then you are the target demographic for the Conquer Series.
The Conquer Series is a series of DVDs created by Dr. Ted Roberts, a pastor and former marine fighter pilot. The videos are an odd hybrid of low-budget action movie, recruitment advertisement, and small group therapy session.
Each video uses military language and imagery to stop sex and internet porn addiction. With sections titled “the mission” and “strongholds of the enemy” the videos seem to be designed for men to talk about something embarrassing with the most masculine images that Dr. Roberts could create. With 68% of Christian men using internet porn on a regular basis, there seems to be some need. More
Leaked anti-gay Jehovah’s Witnesses video to be shown to 7 million people
A leaked Jehovah’s Witnesses video that peddles anti-gay views is set to be shown to seven million people.
The video starts in a board room meeting where a group of men are brainstorming experiences which they can share – and one of the pinpoints “Sally”. ?
The clip then cuts to a young woman walking around what appears to be a market.
She see’s women wearing rainbow bracelets, with rainbow posters showing two stick-figure women holding hands. More
Pope says ‘fake news’ dates to Adam and Eve
'Fake news' led to Adam and Eve’s original sin, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
Disinformation and “manipulative use of social networks” can have “dire consequences” and the world must embark on a “profound and careful process of discernment,” he said in a speech marking World Communications Day.
His speech was themed around the biblical verse: “The truth will set you free.” The pontiff also described journalism as "not just a job; it is a mission." More
Tech Bro Guru: Inside the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro
Bentinho Massaro is crushing the startup game. He’s the visionary behind an innovative company that has captured the hearts and minds of its users like no other.
He’s truly one of a kind. What makes him stand out? It’s not his identity or looks. He’s a typical twenty something founder; white, handsome, charismatic and tech savvy. It’s also not because he built a successful company from nothing. That’s common these days. What makes him particularly unique is that he brilliantly used startup principles to create a legitimately dangerous, real life, 21st century cult. In Sedona. In 2017. Tech bro Guru has arrived. The OS has been upgraded. Cult 2.0 is upon us. More
Hindus upset at Toyota Super Bowl ad for belittling Hinduism
Hindus are upset at Toyota Tundra Super Bowl halftime commercial “We’re All One Team”, apparently attempting to show the unity of world religions, for failure to include representation of Hinduism, world’s third largest religion.
This commercial; in Super Bowl LII football championship played in Minneapolis on February four; depicts Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish religious figures.
How could you possibly showcase “We’re All One Team” by turning your back to 1.1 billion Hindus and thus slighting world’s oldest religion? Hindu statesman Rajan Zed asked in a statement in Reno (Nevada) today. More
Victim Cries as Pastor Accused of Sex Assault Is Applauded
On Dec. 1, as headlines across the country blared with news about Matt Lauer’s surprise firing from the “Today” show for sexual misconduct, a woman named Jules Woodson tapped out a short email. It ran only about 80 words but was nearly 20 years in the making.
“Do you remember?” the subject line read. “Do you remember that night that you were supposed to drive me home from church and instead drove me to a deserted back road and sexually assaulted me?” Woodson wrote. “Do you remember how you acted like you loved me and cared about me in order for me to cooperate in such acts, only to run out of the vehicle later and fall to your knees begging for forgiveness and for me not to tell anyone what had just happened?”
The message landed in the inbox of Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church, an evangelical Memphis mega-congregation that draws more than 2,000 Sunday worshipers. More
Scamming Trump Pastor Demands One Month's Salary From Followers
Paula White, a prosperity gospel minister who has often served as a spiritual adviser for President Donald Trump, has regularly drawn criticism from conservative Evangelicals for preaching what they consider to be “heretical” teachings that warp the divine message of the Gospel.
Now White is raising eyebrows with a new scheme that involves asking her followers to send her up to a full month’s salary — or else face “consequences.”
Via The Christian Post, White has launched a “First Fruits” campaign on her website that asks her followers to ring in the new year by sending her a significant chunk of money this month. More
San Jose moves to shut down two churches selling marijuana
San Jose is about to crack down on two churches that apparently are selling marijuana despite not having permits to do so, Councilwoman Devora “Dev” Davis said last week.
In an email, Davis said that the city attorney’s office “is preparing to take court action to shut down both illegal dispensaries.” She was referring to Coachella Valley Church at 2142 The Alameda and Oklevueha Native American Church of South Bay at 265 Meridian Ave.
“It’s a priority for me, so I will be doing everything I can to shut down illegal pot clubs, regardless of whether they call themselves churches or not,” Davis said.
For the past few years, the city has allowed only 16 cannabis clubs to operate as long as they have permits and pay sales and business taxes. More
Mom Beats, Chokes Daughter For Being Unable to Recite Bible Verses
A Middletown woman was arrested after police said she severely assaulted her daughter and kicked her out of her house because the girl incorrectly recited Bible verses to her last week.
Police filed child endangerment charges against Rhonda Kemp Shoffner, 41, of the first block of Genesis Court, following the incident on March 14.
The victim, who is under the age of 13, told police the assault occurred just after she awoke from a nap in her mother's home about 3 p.m.
Shoffner, who the victim said had been drunk for three days straight, told her daughter to call multiple family members, police said. When they didn't answer the calls, police said, Shoffner ordered her daughter to get on her knees in the bathroom. More
Indian film Padmavati sparks protests over 'Hindu-Muslim romance'
Riot police may be deployed at Indian cinemas over the release of a film about a mythological Indian queen that has sparked protests, attacks on the set and director, and threats to mutilate the lead actor.
The Indian government is being asked to intervene to delay the release of Padmavati, a film based on an epic 16th-century poem, starring Deepika Padukone as the titular character. Uttar Pradesh officials said on Thursday that due to elections and a Muslim holiday they would not be able to provide enough police to secure cinemas for the film’s scheduled release on 1 December. More
Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress thinks the Catholic Church is a 'cult-like pagan religion'
An evangelical pastor and President Donald Trump supporter says Catholicism is a “cult-like pagan religion” and the success of the religion is due to “the genius of Satan.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor, says that the Roman Catholic Church is the result of the Babylonian cult system founded by the Book of Revelation in a video posted on YouTube by RWW Blog.
Twitter slammed and mocked the southern baptist pastor for making the comments on the religion.
"This idea is widespread in RW Born-Againism. They only tolerate Catholics because of anti-abortion stance. Their bigotry just under surface," tweeted one user. More
Only a flaky Christian would get annoyed by Greggs’ sausage roll Jesus
It’s an outrage, I tell you. How could something so sacred be corrupted into something so profane? How could God be so traduced that He is presented in so pitiful a form? It’s appallingly disrespectful. It makes a mockery of so much we hold dear. It’s heretical. Blasphemous. Offensive.
Yes, the story of the nativity is quite a scandal – the almighty creator of the universe appearing on Earth mewling and wailing in a trough in a shed shared with some farm animals. Glory, splendour, majesty? Yeah, right.
Yet despite being reminded of this palpable absurdity every year, some of us Christians still find something supposedly irreverent to get irate about each time Christmas comes around. If it’s not spurious stories about wintervals and prayers, it’s tales of the desecration of the festival by commercial interests. And this ignoble tradition shows no sign of dying out, for this year we have the sausage roll in place of Jesus in order to flog some greasy bakery products. He’s not the Messiah – he’s some flaccid pastry filled with processed meat.. More
ISIS bride-turned-Texas Christian: Racism radicalized me
She went from the Islamic State to the Lone Star State.
The former bride of ISIS’s highest-ranking American member has described for the first time how she fled the extremist group in Syria and has settled down with her four kids in a suburb of Dallas, according to a new article from The Atlantic.
Tania Georgelas, 33, who became radicalized as a teen in England and later moved to Syria with Texan husband John Georgelas, explained how she and her hubby planned to raise their kids into jihadi fighters.
“Our dreams were to have land of our own, raise a family and train them be assassins or whatever, soldiers, and then eventually go join the jihad,” she said. More
Alabama pastor defends Roy Moore by saying 'some 14-year-olds ... could pass for 20'
Republicans who implicitly or explicitly support Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, despite the credible accusations that he sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls as young as 14, tend to point to his support for tax cuts or opposition to abortion and transgender rights. Moore is still in a competitive race against Democrat Doug Jones in part because Alabama is about half evangelical Christian, and many evangelical Christians and their leaders either give Moore the benefit of the doubt or, like Gov. Kay Ivey (R), say they believe Moore's accusers but will vote for him anyway.
The Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders who support Moore are vocal about it, but the ones who don't, for a variety of reasons, are "reticent," says New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, who spoke to many of them. And of the ones who are vocal about their support, Earl Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, wins the prize for worst defense of Moore, so far. More
‘It will help future generations’: Muslim schools in north India set to modernise
Muslim faith schools in Uttar Pradesh will be required to teach English, maths and science subjects to secondary-school level in an attempt to equip students more effectively for the modern world, the Indian government has said.
The move was announced by Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, state minority welfare minister for Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which won a landslide victory in India’s most populous state earlier this year.
Uttar Pradesh has an estimated 19,000 faith schools, or madrasas, but most teach only Islamic theology. Even madrasas that do teach these subjects – many are trying to modernise their curricula – make them optional at secondary school. More
Florida church changes sign after message misinterpreted as sexual
EDGEWATER, Fla. - A church in Edgewater is changing its sign after a message about forgiveness was misinterpreted by many in the community as a sexual innuendo.
The sign outside the Bella Villa Baptist Church read: "Forgiveness is swallowing when you want to spit."
Representatives from the church say the sign was "completely innocent" and was "intended as encouragement to forgive." However, many interpreted the sign in a salacious manner. More
'It's a revolution': polygamist sect loses power over Utah town for first time
A fundamentalist religious sect that commands its women members to wear pioneer-era dresses and that became infamous for mass polygamy and child marriage appears to have had its power over a small town broken for the first time in its history.
Three non-fundamentalist council members are reported to have won against incumbents loyal to the sect “by a landslide” in Hildale, southern Utah, on Tuesday night.
And, in a closer race, an all-but-official majority of voters have chosen a new mayor, who also ran as an “outsider” to challenge the authority of the fringe religion over the isolated community. More
UN expert says most of world lacks real religious freedom
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Three-quarters of the world's people live in countries that either restrict the right to religion or belief or have "a high level of social hostility involving religion or belief," the U.N. special investigator on religious rights said Tuesday.
Ahmed Shaheed told the General Assembly's human rights committee that religious intolerance is prevalent globally — and rising around the world.
He said over 70 countries currently have anti-blasphemy laws that can be used to suppress dissenting views, in violation of international human rights standards. More
Inside the sex scandal that brought down a multi-million dollar televangelist empire
A new TV show explores how the Jessica Hahn sex scandal took down a multi-million dollar televangelist empire.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were famous in the 1980s for their successful TV ministry PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, later called The Jim and Tammy Show.
But the Christian conglomerate was all but destroyed after a local newspaper unearthed a shocking scandal - that Jim Bakker had paid $279,000 to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary.
That thread quickly unraveled an even bigger scandal after the Charlotte Observer found that Hahn had allegedly been paid the cash as hush money, after she was allegedly raped by Bakker in a hotel room in 1980 when she was 21. More
Lakeside Church Shocked by $9,500 Electric Bill
Songs of praise bring together the congregation at Calvary Chapel Lakeside’s Sunday service. Recently, the church said they had another issue bringing them together, the church’s electric bill.
“The Pastor brought it to me and I was like, I don’t know what’s going on,” church elder Eric Bryant said.
Eric is talking about the church’s June electric bill from San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). The bill was for over $9,500.
“I was incredulous,” Eric said. More
London commuters ran onto the tracks after a man began reciting Bible verses out loud
Commuters on one of London’s busiest rail routes forced open the doors on a rush hour train and climbed onto the tracks after panicking over man reading the Bible.
The BBC reports that passengers became scared when a man began quoting Bible passages such as “death is not the end” out loud, causing them to flee the train outside Wimbledon station at 8.30am Monday morning.
One man who was on the train said the Bible reading caused a “crush” and a “commotion”, before someone asked the reader to stop “as he was scaring people”. More
Pope's psychoanalyst visits show his struggle in Argentina's 'dirty war'
One of the mysteries of the life of Pope Francis is how a man regarded for many years as an authoritarian by his colleagues was reinvented as a global icon of forgiveness.
The news that he visited a psychoanalyst every week for six months may cast some light on this question.
At the time of his therapy, he was 42 and Argentina was two years into the terrible struggle between a military junta that killed about 30,000 people and tortured many more, and the left, which included everyone from urban guerrillas to unarmed priests. Fr Bergoglio, as he then was, found himself in the middle as the head of the Jesuit order. More
Who is David Meade? Christian numerologist who believes the world will end on September 23
David Meade is a Christian conspiracy theorist who has made predictions about Doomsday. He wrote a book called Planet X – The 2017 Arrival – insisting Nibiru would crash into Earth in October – but then moved it forward by a few weeks.
His theory was given a boost this year when NASA discovered a new planet in the solar system, which they named Planet Nine.
Meade’s prediction is largely based on the Bible passage Isaiah, Chapter 13 9-10, it reads: “See, the Day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
“The Stars of Heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising Sun will be darkened and the Moon will not give its light.” More
Christian parents 'to sue school' because boy in son's class was allowed to wear dress
Nigel and Sally Rowe said they had been bullied into “accepting a new moral framework which strongly conflicts with what we believe in”.
They raised concerns with the head after a six-year-old boy arrived at the unnamed school dressed as a boy one day and wore girl’s clothes on another.
But the school defended its behaviour, stating: “The refusal to acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender” was ‘transphobic behaviour’.”
Today, Mr Rowe, 44, from the Isle of Wight, said: “I’m shocked that just because we question the notion that a six-year-old boy can really become a girl, we are transphobic. More
'Agnostic' Jeremy Corbyn upsets Catholics by taking Holy Communion
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of "disrespecting the Catholic faith" after he took Holy Communion despite his apparent agnosticism.
The Labour leader, who has never practiced Catholicism, took wine and wafers during the funeral of the former GMB Union president Mary Turner, who died in July.
The Diocese of Westminster, which is responsible for the church Mr Corbyn was attending at the time, responded by saying that it expected celebrants to be "in full communion with the Catholic Church" in order to receive Communion. The left-wing New Statesman magazine reports that Mr Corbyn queued for Communion with his Mexican wife Laura Alvarez during the service at Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn, north London. More
They kept us as slaves: AP reveals claims against church
SPINDALE, N.C. — When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told.
Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.
“They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Oliveira said. More
Christian multi-universe theories
The scholastic theology of the Middle Ages was very much in thrall to the philosophy of Aristotle. One of the themes of the Reformation was to move away from Aristotelian thought in favor of the Hebraic thought of the Bible. But already in the Middle Ages, Aristotle had his critics. In 1277, the Pope asked the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, to look into reports that some of the faculty members at the University of Paris were taking Aristotelianism way too far. So Tempier studied the matter and came up with a list of 219 propositions in Aristotle that were heretical. Any professor teaching them would be excommunicated and would lose his position.
Church-imposed censorship of the free inquiry and the untrammeled life of the mind that are at the heart of the university! So some would consider it. But a line of research today, detailed in the article linked after the jump, argues that Tempier’s list had the effect of liberating Western thought from Aristotle’s scientific teachings. And this, in turn, was an important factor in the rise of modern science. More
What U.S. Evangelists Did To Poison A Country
In 2009, authorities in Uganda began debating an Anti-Homosexuality Act, which threatened LGBT persons with life imprisonment and even execution for the “crime” of being gay. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of organizations advocating for the protection of LGBT Ugandans, began recording and reporting abuses arising from that proposed law. Frank Mugisha, SMUG’s Executive Director, reported that, as a result of the bill’s consideration “People are calling the police [with names of suspects] and harassing others in the streets.”
When the law passed in 2014, reports of anti-gay incidents increased tenfold. In May 2014, SMUG issued a report detailing attempted lynchings, mob violence, home torchings, blackmail, firings, arrests, evictions and suicides. Tabloid newspapers also joined in the fray, publishing 29 stories outing hundreds of LGBT individuals, which led often to further violence and familial shunning. More
Pastor allegedly sleeps with General Overseer, rapes daughter
The assistant pastor of the Great Overcomes Ministry, Abaranje in Ikotun, Lagos, Okwudili Ozor, has landed in prison after he was accused of allegedly sleeping with the General Overseer of the church, Prophetess Gloria Udeh and her 15-year-old daughter.
The incident caused serious crisis in the church after allegation of adultery and rape was leveled against Pastor Uzor.
According to P M.Express, the alleged sex scandal has put the entire congregation in disarray as some members have left in annoyance because the church’s General Overseer, Prophetess Udeh was in the thick of the whole scandal. More
Black female Episcopal bishop of Indy diocese breaks stained glass ceiling
INDIANAPOLIS — On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows stepped out of the historic Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan into a city where she’d lived most of her life but suddenly couldn’t recognize.
Cars flipped upside down, buildings with shattered windows, ash coating everything. These were the features of the hellish streetscape a few blocks from Ground Zero.
In that moment, the North Tower of the World Trade Center came crashing down. Someone urged her group, which had been huddled in a stairwell during the attacks, to run for a nearby ferry terminal. Baskerville-Burrows, who grew up in a housing project on Staten Island, knew the way. Soon a ferry was carrying her away from the smoking city. Back in the building where she'd lived as a child, she knocked on doors she hadn't visited in years, seeking refuge from terrorism where she had once only feared the gunfire outside. More
Complaint Filed To Close Sex Club Posing As Church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Metropolitan Government has filed a complaint seeking an injunction to permanently close a controversial swingers club in Madison.
The filing made Thursday in General Sessions court, states that a permit had been issued to operate a church at 520 Lentz Ave in Madison, but instead the owners have been operating a sex club.
The complaint states that Freedom 4 All, Inc. is "maintaining a public nuisance by permitting acts of lewd conduct" and is in violation of city ordinances and state law which prohibit operation of the club within 1,000 feet of a school. More
Sikh Man Heads To Pentagon As A Soldier After Long Struggle To Join U.S. Forces
In 2015, Kanwar Singh saw an opening. He would approach the secretary of defense at a public event in Cambridge and get him on the record about whether Sikhs ought to be allowed to serve in the military with turbans and beards.
Shaking with nerves, Singh approached the microphone in a camouflage turban.
"I want to understand," the young man from Waltham asked. "What can we do to ensure anyone who's passionate and patriotic can serve without them having to give up on their religious beliefs?" More
Church loses labour case
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Namibia might have to start compensating its employees as stipulated by the country’s labour law after it lost a labour case in the High Court yesterday.
The congregation dragged the Social Security Commission to court in May 2016 after the Commission refused to deregister the church as a company and employer.
“The congregation is trying to evade its obligations under the SSC Act and this court cannot allow employees to be unprotected in the event they fall ill, become pregnant or die,” explained Judge Petrus Unengu.
The congregation approached the High Court, stating that its followers are not employees and thus the congregation cannot be regarded as an employer and it does not regard itself as one. More
'Mother' should not be used to describe a bomb, Pope says
Pope Francis on Saturday criticized the naming of the U.S. military's biggest non-nuclear explosive as "the Mother of All Bombs", saying the word "mother" should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon.
The U.S. Air Force dropped such a bomb, officially designated as the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan last month. The nickname was widely used in briefings and reporting on the attack.
"I was ashamed when I heard the name," Pope Francis told an audience of students. "A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is happening?" More
Scientology Social Media Celebrates L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics on its 67th Birthday
In the year 1950, before just about all of the self-help books you’ve ever heard of, (and even before Norman Vincent Peale’s wildly influential ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’), a “self-help book,” one of the first to define the genre, from a writer previously known for fiction named ‘L. Ron Hubbard,’ was published and went on to become one of the most recognized self-help books of all-time,..it was – “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.”
Given the fact that the very same L. Ron Hubbard would later go on to start the always-in-the-news religion of Scientology, it may surprise you to know if unaware, that ‘Dianetics’ was a secular, nonreligious 180,000 word work supposedly written in only 6 weeks, according to Wikipedia. More
Adventist pastor comes out as bisexual, resigns her church
A Seventh-day Adventist pastor has resigned from her Arizona pulpit and announced via video that she is bisexual.
“Through study and prayer, I’ve come to a point of complete disagreement with the Adventist Church on their teachings about LGBT people,” Alicia Johnston said in a video posted on Facebook on April 22.
“I also myself am bisexual so I’ve come to an awareness of that and have realized I just can’t live my life with integrity anymore without being honest about that.”
The Arizona Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists issued a statement calling Johnston a “gifted theologian and pastor” and noting its determination to abide by the stances of the church. More
Exhibit shows how Passover was artistically reinvented through the years
DURHAM, N.C. The text of the story is familiar to most Jews gathering around the table Monday (April 10) to recount the biblical story of their liberation from slavery in Egypt
. Indeed, many know parts of the Passover manual they will be reciting — called a “haggadah” — by heart.
But the images used to illuminate this ancient text, embellished with hymns, songs and prayers, tell an additional story. It is the story of Passover told visually through the ages.
Dozens of such books, spanning the 14th to the 21st centuries, are on display at a Duke University gallery and they showcase the artistic imagination used in the service of Passover, which is probably Judaism’s most widely observed holiday. More
Police arrest ex-church volunteer accused of sexually abusing nursery children during evening prayer
A former volunteer at a Catholic church in North Texas was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse stemming from allegations made in July, police said.
Francisco Guevara, 65, was arrested on two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and one charge of indecency with a child.
According to police, Guevara volunteered at the St. John the Apostle Catholic Church nursery, where two of the offenses occurred. The offenses occurred up to 7 years ago, when the victims were between 4 to 7 years of age. More
Hindu Temple, Previously A Jewish Synagogue, Will Become the First in Rhode Island
A former conservative Jewish synagogue in Warwick, Rhode Island, has reportedly been acquired by the Rhode Island Hindu Temple Society (RIHTS). The synagogue, named Temple Am David, is being converted into a Hindu temple, and it will be the first Hindu temple in Rhode Island.
Temple Am David has been in receivership since November, and it is expected to be turned over to a new faith, who are its new owners. The temple’s temporary receiver, Theodore Orson, of Orson and Brusini Ltd, a Providence law firm, said RIHTS signed a purchase and sale agreement in June for $400,001, which was approved in July by Kent County Superior Court. More
Did Jehovah's Witness elders fail to report sexual abuse?
While her abuser, Terry J. Monheim, pleaded guilty back in 2012 in York County Court, a lawsuit Fessler filed against Monheim and the church is going to trial Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Her goal in filing the suit, besides personal justice, is to remove the secrecy within the denomination that allowed her abuse to continue after it was reported to church elders, her attorney, Jeffrey Fritz, said Monday.
"Her main motivation is exposing that the policies of the Watchtower and the Jehovah's Witnesses are not following mandatory reporting laws in Pennsylvania," he said Monday. "That's what led to this happening to her, and continuing to happen to other victims within the religion, as well." More
Aliso Viejo pastor gets 6 years in child sex assaults
SANTA ANA – A youth pastor pleaded guilty Monday and was immediately sentenced to six years in prison for sexually assaulting two underage boys at church events in Aliso Viejo.
Brandon Ernis Lee McDade of Mission Viejo, 31, pleaded guilty to a count of committing lewd acts on a child younger than 14, two counts of committing lewd acts on a child between 14 and 15, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of child annoyance, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. McDade was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. More
Pilgrim nation: The Householder God
When I said that this was a temple of Krishna to my friends, the priest (locally known as panda) frowned. ‘Sir, Krishna is an avatar. But our Jagannath is the avatari.’ Avatar is the descended mortal form of divine who walks the earth. Avatari is the divinity who descends; he can be Ram as well as Krishna. With this one sentence, I was reminded that while much of the rituals are Vaishnava, and the deity enshrined in Puri, Odisha, is linked to Krishna, he is called Jagannath, lord of the world, for a reason.
Yes, for most people, it is the only temple in India where Krishna is worshipped with his siblings, the elder brother Balarama and the younger sister, Subhadra. But for the locals, the enshrined deity is to be simultaneously identified with Vishnu, the preserver of the world, and is often called Ananta Vasudeva, the embodiment of infinity. His consort is neither Radha nor Rukmini, but Lakshmi herself. All the while, the priests will tell you that different people see the deity differently: the triad is different forms of Tara to the Shaktas, different Bhairavas to the Shaivas, embodiment of Buddhist ideas to the Buddhists, embodiment of Jain principles to Jains. More
Arrested Houston pastor accused in $200K theft of church donations
The former associate pastor of a Houston-area church has been accused of stealing more than $200,000 from his congregation, according to Harris County court documents.
Russell Thompson Jr., 55, had been with the City of Refuge Presbyterian Church, located in the 3100 block of Yellowstone near Old Spanish Trail. He resides in Pearland.
Thompson was indicted March 13 and arrested early last week, charged with theft. He is currently free on $30,000 bond and his next court date is April 14, according to court records. More
Jehovah's Witnesses charity drops attempts to block abuse inquiry
The UK’s main Jehovah’s Witnesses charity has dropped efforts to block an investigation into how it handled allegations of sexual abuse, including of children, after a legal fight lasting more than two years.
The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into safeguarding at the religion’s main UK charity in May 2014 after receiving allegations that survivors of rape and sexual abuse, including people abused as children, were forced to face their attackers in “judicial committees”.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, resisted the investigation into the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society of Great Britain (WTBTS), which oversees the UK’s 1,500 congregations and is believed to play a key role in deciding how claims of abuse are handled. More
Hindu Priest Arrested in Possible Love Triangle Murder Plot
SACRAMENTO -- Three and a half months after thieves entered a Sacramento home and left a 60-year-old man dead as they fled, new details are emerging about the last person arrested in the case and what may have motivated the killing.
While the crime, a vicious stabbing, according to witnesses, is alarming enough, the fact that the latest alleged murderer is a Hindu priest is sending shock waves through the Hindu community.
Ashok Kumar was killed in August in his home on Grandstaff Drive.
A month later Sacramento police arrested Tiwan Greenwade, Vicky Rainone and the victim's wife, Rohini Kumar, for murder. More
Trump’s Election Win in Church of Scientology’s East Hollywood Neighborhood
It surprised no one last fall when Los Angeles and California at large overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton in her failed bid for the presidency. Just seven of the city’s 1,700 precincts went for Donald Trump.
But while nearly all of the surrounding region voted for the Democratic former secretary of state, one little chunk of Hollywood best known for the Church of Scientology’s “Big Blue” complex went red, picking the Republican billionaire instead.
The precinct, wedged between Hollywood Boulevard and Fountain Avenue, tipped to Trump by just three votes, 347 to 344. It marked the first time since at least 2000 that the area went Republican. In 2012, President Barack Obama defeated Gov. Mitt Romney by 81 votes, 316 to 235. More
Pastor, Wife Arrested in $1,200,000 Congregation Fraud Scheme
A Virginia pastor, his wife and a friend of theirs are all being accused of defrauding their Alexandria congregation out of more than $1 million, Fox5DC reports.
According to the report, Terry Wayne Millender, who serves as pastor for Victorious Life Church in Alexandria; his wife, Brenda; and a friend, Grenetta Wells, who is also affiliated with the church, were all recently indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy.
Authorities say the charges stem from an investment scam in which the Millenders and Wells convinced congregations to invest in their company, Micro-Enterprise Management Group, which allegedly helped poor people in developing countries through the provision of small, short-term loans to start or build up existing businesses by working with a network of established microfinance groups. More
Zimbabwe priest held over Mugabe death prophecy
Harare - Zimbabwe police on Monday detained a pastor who claimed that veteran President Robert Mugabe, who turns 93 next month, would die in October, his lawyer said.
Gift Mtisi said Pastor Patrick Mugadza was arrested at the magistrate’s court in Harare where he was appearing on separate charges of wearing the national flag and charged over the prophecy made last week about Mugabe's demise.
"He was appearing at the court on a different matter when police arrested him during a break and charged him over the prophecy," Mtisi told AFP.
"He was initially charged with undermining the authority of the president and the charge was later changed to insulting people of a certain race or religion." More
Sex, drugs and ancient scrolls: Scientists claim religion has same impact on brain as lovemaking, ecstasy and music
The brains of people who feel God's spirit are stimulated in a similar way to the more earthly desires of enjoying drugs, music, gambling and sex, scientists have revealed. Researchers used MRI scans to look into the brains of Mormons experiencing religious ecstasy.
Scientists from the University of Utah in the U.S. enlisted 19 church-going teenagers to take part in an hour long "exam" with four parts for the study.
The scientists recorded their reactions and studied the parts of the brain stimulated. This included six minutes of rest, six minutes of a video detailing their church's membership statistics, eight minutes of quotations by Mormon and world religious leaders, eight minutes of reading familiar passages from the Book of Mormon, 12 minutes of church-produced video of family and Biblical scenes and another eight minutes of quotations. More
Investigation Into Death of Jehovah’s Witness During Childbirth
On October 12, 2016, 26-year-old Eloise Dupuis entered a hospital in Levis, Quebec, Canada to give birth.
She never came home.
Dupuis began to hemorrhage while in labor and required a blood transfusion, which she allegedly refuse. She then died. According to the CBC, the child survived and is in good health. See this news story for more information.
Dupuis’ death, however, has now prompted an investigation by the coroner’s office, to see if medical mistakes were made and to note if she did indeed refuse a blood transfusion through an informed decision. The news article above states that Dupuis’ aunt and a group of her friends expressed concern that the family of Dupuis may have been the ones to pressure the medical staff into withholding blood, something forbidden among Jehovah’s Witnesses. More
Could ‘Harry Potter’ give rise to a new religion?
Could Harry Potter become a spiritual leader?
A Cambridge podcast treats the boy wizard’s story as holy and reflects on life’s big questions using the seven-book series by J.K. Rowling as a guide.
The online show, “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” currently holds the number one spot on iTunes’s religion and spirituality charts, ahead of best-selling author and televangelist Joel Osteen. Launched in May, the 25-minute Potter-cast draws about 100,000 listeners a week. More
Scientologists demand A&E Network pull former disciple Leah Remini’s exposé from air
Leah Remini has reportedly demanded the Church of Scientology pay her US$1.5 million after it lobbied a TV network to get her new show shut down.
A lawyer acting for the Scientologists tried to get the show, which threatens to reveal details about the church, pulled before it airs on cable channel The Arts & Entertainment Network.
The former Kings of Queens star was blacklisted after walking away from Scientology in 2013, criticizing officials’ treatment of their followers. Since then the 46-year-old has gone public with her disdain for the religion and is to reveal details about the church and former members of the religion in her series Scientology and the Aftermath, which debuts on November 29, 2016. More
13-Year-Old Jain Girl Dies After 68 Days of Fasting
For 25 days, Aradhana Samdhariya went to St Francis School in Secunderabad with just a bottle of boiled water. A Class VIII student, it was her breakfast and lunch. Some of her classmates knew she was on fast, but did not know she ate no food at all and was surviving only on those few gulps of water. This fact was known only to her family, relatives and close friends.
After the first week of fasting, she became withdrawn and lost interest in studies. Back at her home in Kot Market, she watched TV, lay around, drank more boiled water for dinner, and went off to sleep. From the 26th day of her fast, Aradhana stopped going to school altogether. More
West Helena pastor charged with rape, sexual grooming of 15-year-old
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. -- Helena-West Helena police have arrested a pastor for allegations involving the rape of a 15-year-old church member.
Pastor Bishop Michael Jenkins is charged with rape and sexual grooming of a minor, police said. Just after 1 p.m., police and FBI agents went to Jenkins' home on South 7th Street.
He works at the Church of the Living God.
"The 15-year-old said that she was actually raped by this local pastor inside of the trailer," said HWHPD Chief Virgil Green. Police say that trailer was parked right in front of the pastor's house. More
Young Priests 'Too Scared' To Perform Exorcisms
Priests in Italy are finding it difficult to encourage young clergy to take up the rite of exorcism, one of the country's top practitioners has warned.
"I told the bishop that I can't find anyone willing to do this," 79-year-old Father Vincenzo Taraborelli told the BBC.
"Many of them are scared. Even priests can be scared. It's a difficult life." Fr Taborelli has been performing exorcisms – the expulsion of evil spirits from a person or place – for almost three decades, and sees up to 30 people a day at his church in Rome.
The Catholic Church downplayed the reality of Satan and demonic forces after the liberalising Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. However, the conservative Pope John Paul II was clear about his belief in the occult and Pope Francis has also reminded Catholics that "Satan is real". More
Utah Jehovah’s Witnesses church forced woman to listen to audio of her rape
A woman is suing a Jehovah's Witnesses church in Weber County after, she says, one of its instructors repeatedly raped her when she was a minor and the organization's leadership forced her to listen to an audio recording of one of the assaults.
The woman filed the lawsuit Wednesday in 2nd District Court, accusing the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses church in Roy — as well as naming the alleged perpetrator, several church leaders and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the religion's headquarters located in New York) — of knowingly allowing the "unfit" instructor to rise to a position of authority without warning members of his "dangerous propensities" and past sexual transgressions.
No representative of the Roy church, 1950 W. 4400 South, responded to a voicemail from The Salt Lake Tribune requesting comment Thursday. More
How did the Star of David come to be?
From synagogues, clothes, temples, buildings and even flags like the flag of Israel, the six-pointed star has become a symbol of Judaism. Initially, the star, otherwise known as the Star of David or Shield of David, was not uniquely a representation of the Jewish community. This was unlike signs such as the Lion of Judah, the Lulav, and the Shofar and most prominent of all, the Menorah, which is a seven-armed ceremonial candelabrum. So this raises the question, how did this star become the official symbol of the community?
The earliest notable use of the star was decorative purposes according to Alec Mishory, a historian. The star was used to mark ancestry on printed work by Jewish printers in a bid to distinguish themselves from their competition. The hexagram was also used for Kabbalistic purposes from as early as the third century CE on tombstones, tables and other locations and traditional items. More
Man who claimed God punishes gay people with natural disasters sees his own home destroyed by floods
A man who claimed God punishes gay people with natural disasters has seen his own home destroyed by floods.
Tony Perkins - the leader of Family Research Council - might be regretting that statement after becoming another victim of the Louisiana flood crisis.
The disaster has seen several people killed and thousands left homeless. But people are viewing the destruction of his property as a glimmer of good news after what he has previously stated as fact. The group leader had to flee his flooded home in a canoe and now faces six months living in a camper van to mull over those words. More
Churches hope to attract youth with Pokémon GO
The game was released just last week, however, it has already become a huge hit. Virtual Pokémon could be found in subway stations, art galleries, libraries, zoos, parks, and even at several churches. The last few days saw a number of game-hooked people, especially young adults, flocking to the churches, not to take part in any Church service, but to capture and battle their Pokémon.
The game has certainly caught the attention of Church leaders. It has the potential to increase Church attendance. However, as of now, churches looking to draw in youth with the help of the game are not be able to register as a Gym or a PokeStop. What the Church leaders can do is turn their churches into a “charging station” for the players. More
Islamic State Issues Fatwa Against Children with Down Syndrome, Murders 38 Disabled Infants
The Islamic State has reportedly issued a fatwa ordering the elimination of children with Down syndrome and other congenital disabilities, reminiscent of Hitler’s infamous “Aktion T4” program, which administered forced “euthanasia” on an estimated 300,000 disabled persons.
According to the Iraqi activist blog Mosul Eye, sharia judges have ruled that ISIS followers are authorized to kill infants with Down Syndrome or congenital deformities. Already since the religious decree (fatwa) was issued, militants have killed at least 38 children between one week and three months old by lethal injection or suffocation. More
Inside the world of Mormon porn
Sister Rose opens the front door of her home. In the doorway stands a handsome young man in a white button-down shirt and paisley tie, with a more-than-suggestive look on his face.
After she invites him in, he sits down on her bed.
“So I hear you like elders,” he says to the older, married woman.
“Where did you hear that from?” she asks (knowing exactly where).
“My companion was feeling really guilty and told me all about it. You both could get in a lot of trouble for this—unless you let me in on the action,” he warns. Sister Rose barely hesitates before, well, letting him in on the action. She seductively peels off her patterned dress, but something is amiss. She’s wearing what appears to be pajamas under her dress—a white tee and fitted shorts. She then removes his clothes, and the young man is wearing the same tee and shorts set. More
Pro-Trump pastor whitewashes history of pastors during Jim Crow—including the history of his church
Pastor Robert Jeffress is senior past of First Baptist Dallas and the most visible evangelical pastor to back Donald Trump’s candidacy. Jeffress, a relative newcomer to politics, explains his activism as part of his God-given responsibility as a pastor and a Christian.
“When you look at American history, whenever there was a need for a great change, it was pastors who led the way,” Jeffress said in a video message. Jeffrees said pastors were the leaders during the American revolution and the fight for the abolition of slavery.
“And it was pastors who were at the forefront of the civil rights movement. What if pastors back then had said, ‘I’m not getting involved’? We would not have a country today,” Jeffress said. More
Bill Nye visits Noah’s Ark theme park
Bill Nye, known from his 1990s TV show as “The Science Guy,” toured the new Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky with the head of the Christian apologetics ministry behind it.
And it was “like the debate all over again but more intense at times,” according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on Friday (July 8).
“Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed,” Ham said on Facebook. “It was a clash of world views.”
“I chose to visit the Ark Encounter to see for myself the extent of its influence on young people,” Nye said Monday in a written statement. More
Turkey Pursues Cleric Living in U.S., Blamed as Coup Mastermind
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says that a mild-mannered Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania was pulling the strings of a coup attempt last week that almost succeeded in taking over the state, and killing Mr. Erdogan himself.
Now, Mr. Erdogan says that many thousands of Turkish citizens — soldiers, policemen, bureaucrats, teachers, judges, lawyers and many more professions — are all part of the cleric’s movement and must be punished. Tens of thousands of people have already been arrested or suspended from their jobs in the four days since the coup failed, after a night of violence that plunged the country into chaos.
Mr. Erdogan and the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, have been adversaries in recent years, and Turkey has said before that Mr. Gulen must be extradited by the United States. Now, though, Mr. Erdogan appears determined to get him back, a matter that threatens to aggravate relations between the two NATO allies.
But who is Mr. Gulen? And is it possible he is behind such a vast conspiracy? More
Western Wall Prayer Protest Turns Violent
The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites. It is sacred because it is the remnant of the remaining wall that once supported and enclosed the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great. The public plaza located at the Western Wall, last Thursday, June 16, saw the Haredi Jews, also known as ultra-Orthodox Jews, disrupting a government-sanctioned mixed-gender prayer service held by the Reform and Conservative Jews.
The Reform and Conservative Jewish worshippers were shoved, pushed, and spat upon by the Haredi Jews. A few of the Haredi Jews, in order to avoid looking at the women worshippers while pushing them, covered their faces with their hats. There were a dozen uniformed policemen present at the scene. However, they did not intervene, they just looked on. The Reform and Conservative Jews refrained from responding to the abuse. More
Church and state group takes aim at Hondo's 'God's Country' signs
HONDO, Texas - Twin signs praising Hondo as "God's Country" are catching hell from a group that advocates for the separation of church and state. But the city's mayor and local residents have no desire to remove the signs.
The two iconic signs on Highway 90 greet drivers with the message "This Is God's Country - Please Don't Drive Through It Like Hell."
Acting on complaints from two unidentified Texans, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Hondo Mayor James Danner a letter last week asking that the city of Hondo remove the signs from public property. Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote the "This Is God's Country" message violates the First Amendment's clause against the establishment of a religion. More
Jehovah's Witness video under fire for homophobic message
A new Jehovah’s Witness video is drawing fire online for teaching children to be homophobic.
The animated video titled ‘Lesson 22: One Man, One Woman‘ continues an ongoing series by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, featuring a young girl learning the ways of Jehovah through her mother. In this video, the little girl asks her mother about a school friend who has “two mommies.”
“My teacher says that all that matters is that people love each other and that they’re happy,” the little girl says.
To which the mother replies “Well people have their own ideas about what is right and wrong. But what matters is how Jehovah feels. He wants us to be happy and he knows how we can be happiest. That’s why he invented marriage the way he did.” More
Lady Gaga to join Dalai Lama in Indy this weekend
Lady Gaga will join the Dalai Lama in Indianapolis on Sunday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting. The pop icon is just the latest national figure to confirm a visit to the Circle City this weekend, joining former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and pop star Justin Bieber, who is in town for a Saturday concert.
The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is slated to give the conference's keynote address urging local action to build kind and compassionate cities. The address starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the J.W. Marriott Grand Ballroom. Afterward, Lady Gaga will join him for an onstage conversation, moderated by journalist Ann Curry. The panel also will be joined by businessman and philanthropist Philip Anschutz. More
"Is the Pope Catholic?" suddenly a serious question
It’s always been the jokey answer to a dumb question, but it’s now a serious issue for Catholic intellectuals who have been criticizing, and defending, the Catholic bona fides of Pope Francis, especially since the pontiff released a landmark document on family life earlier this month that some say calls into question the church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage.
“A catastrophe,” one traditionalist blogger called the apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” which was released by the Vatican on April 8. Francis “departs from Church teaching” in the exhortation, wrote another.
“Suddenly the rhetorical question, ‘Is the pope Catholic?’ doesn’t seem so rhetorical anymore,” Claire Chretien wrote in a pointed critique at the conservative Web outlet The Federalist. More
‘The prophet will never lead the LDS Church astray,’ and other Mormon heresies
“The prophet will never lead the Church astray.” How many times do we hear that comforting statement in Mormon circles?
Some Mormons use it to comfort themselves when the Church has done something that just doesn’t feel right, whether it’s prohibiting the baptism of children of same-sex couples or denying the priesthood to blacks: “This must be God’s will despite what my conscience is telling me, because the prophet will never lead the Church astray.”
Others use it to bludgeon people who can’t fall in line behind whatever policy the Church has supported: “You must be apostate, because the prophet has spoken, and we have been taught that the prophet will never lead the Church astray. So either get with the program or get out.”
The problem with this understanding of prophets is that it contradicts one of the bedrock doctrines of Mormonism: agency. More
Could religion help you live longer?
Women who frequently attend religious services have a lower risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, than those who do not, new research suggests.
The study, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, does not prove a cause and effect relationship, but the researchers say the association appears to be strong.
"The results suggest that there is perhaps something about the communal religious experience that is very powerful," study author Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public, told CBS News.
For the analysis, VanderWeele and colleagues pulled data from a long-running national health study of female nurses to examine attendance at religious services and subsequent death in women. More
Prince's Life as a Jehovah's Witness: His Complicated and Ever-Evolving Faith
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were childhood friends, lovers and founding members of Prince's Revolution band. If Prince had a musical family, they were it. So when the pair tried to put together a Revolution tour in 2000, they were hopeful, they told Minneapolis' Star Tribune in 2004, that their former bandleader would say yes. He didn't.
"He declined because of my homosexuality and the fact I'm half-Jewish," said Melvoin. She was told he wanted her to give a press conference denouncing her homosexuality and announcing that she was converting to Jehovah. "I was like: I guess we'll never hear from him again."
But just six years later, she stood beside Prince onstage in London, playing for millions of viewers at an awards show. In matching white suits, Melvoin and Prince hammered shoulder to shoulder on their guitars, him lustily singing "Purple Rain." Coleman was on piano. The early acceptance of the gay couple -- and then the rejection and acceptance all over again -- is an example of the puzzling contradiction that Prince acted out in his attitudes toward sexuality and religion. More
Who Was Mary Magdalene?
The whole history of western civilization is epitomized in the cult of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries the most obsessively revered of saints, this woman became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance.
Yet she was only elusively identified in Scripture, and has thus served as a scrim onto which a succession of fantasies has been projected. In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmeet to feminist icon to the matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty.
How the past is remembered, how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth. More
The Church Collection Plate Goes Digital
Dylan Ciamacco, 25, first went to the Los Angeles outpost of international megachurch C3 as a teen. His mom thought a lot of the young people there—in skinny jeans, chunky sweaters, and leather jackets—dressed like him. He’d emerged recently from a “sick” (as in awesome) atheist phase, he says, mocking himself, and was looking to go back to church.
A typical service, Ciamacco says, opens with a band that would fit in at the Coachella festival, were it not for the Jesus lyrics: “What a savior, my Redeemer/Friend of sinners, one like me.” (In one podcast, a pastor, sermonizing about society’s obsession with markers of achievement, uses an Internet-approved term of endearment to channel his audience, asking, “When am I going to get my own bae?”) At the end, a member of the “worship team” will call on parishioners to tithe and pass the collection plate. But not all people reach into their wallet. Many take out their phone instead. More
Is the end of days looming for fundamentalist sect in Utah?
The new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City is a massive, futuristic cube of metal and glass that looks imposing, austere and, above all, impregnable. Armed guards patrol the exterior 24 hours a day.
But if a certain group of polygamous religious extremists in a lonely corner of southern Utah are to be believed, this Wednesday the walls will split open and fall when one of their leaders, Lyle Jeffs, appears before the judge in a major fraud case, according to former followers of his sect.
Simultaneously, an earthquake will apparently cause the walls of a prison in Texas to crumble and Lyle’s brother, Warren Jeffs, the group’s “prophet” and supreme leader, will also walk free – despite the fact he has been serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in that state since 2011, convicted of having sex with underage girls as young as 12 that he took as polygamous wives. More
Dead for 48 minutes, Catholic Priest claims God is female
A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart has revealed a shocking revelation that will change everything you once believed.
The 71-year-old cleric Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure. Father John Micheal O’neal was rushed to the hospital on January 29 after a major heart attack, but was declared clinically dead soon after his arrival.
With the aid of a high-tech machine called LUCAS 2, that kept the blood flowing to his brain, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital managed to unblock vital arteries and return his heart to a normal rhythm.
The doctors were afraid he would have suffered some brain damage from the incident, but he woke up less than 48 minutes later and seems to have perfectly recovered. More
Oldest Christian monastery in Iraq razed
IRBIL, Iraq — Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group's relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.
St. Elijah's Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, including most recently for U.S. troops. In earlier millennia, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches, prayed in the chapel, worshipped at the altar. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ's name, were carved near the entrance.
Before it was razed, a partially restored, 27,000-square-foot stone and mortar building stood fortress-like on a hill above Mosul. Although the roof was largely missing, it had 26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel. One month later photos show "that the stone walls have been literally pulverized," said imagery analyst Stephen Wood, CEO of Allsource Analysis, who pinpointed the destruction between August and September 2014. More
If You Could Invent A Religion, What Would It Look Like?
If you could start a new religion that would change the world for the better, what would it look like?
If some ideas are bubbling to the surface, then now is the perfect time to sit down and write an outline. Jewish nonprofit and cultural center 92nd Street Y, in partnership with radio podcast and website On Being, is offering cash prizes for people who can come up with a compelling proposal.
“The whole point of this challenge is to empower people to think about solutions and explore how religion can act as a powerful force for good,” said Asha Curran, Director of the Center for Innovation and Social Impact at 92nd Street Y, which is shortened as 92Y and has no relation to the YMCA. More
Pastor Accused of Raping, Impregnating Teen Skips Flight
A Chester County, Pennsylvania, pastor wanted on charges he raped and impregnated a teen girl skipped his flight home from Ecuador but is still expected to surrender to police this weekend, according to police.
Jacob Malone, who lived in Exton, has been in Ecuador as allegations have come to light that he raped a girl while working at Calvary Fellowship Church in Downingtown, said police.
"What he did is horrible," said pastor Bill Bateman. "We're hurting over it, the church is hurting over it, we're hurting for his wife and kids, and, of course, the young lady."
Malone, 33, was scheduled to board a plane in Ecuador Thursday but he rescheduled for a weekend flight, said police. More
'Japanese Schindler' Who Saved 6,000 Lives During World War II Finally Gets A Movie
Steven Spielberg's 1993 film "Schindler's List" told the story of German businessman Oskar Schindler, whose determination to stand up for what was right saved approximately 1,100 Jews from the Nazis.
Twenty-three years later, another hero who saved lives during the Holocaust is being commemorated with a feature-length film.
Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who was stationed at a consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania during the early days of World War II. Between July 31 and August 28, 1940, Sugihara and his wife spent long nights writing and issuing more than 2,000 visas for Jewish refugees desperate to flee the Nazis and build new lives in Japan -- even though his actions defied the Japanese government's orders. More
‘Mastur-Plan’ App Offers Mormon Alternative To Jerking Off
Hey there, chronic masturbator! Were you aware that The Book of Mormon considers “sexual sins” like whacking off as second only to murder? It’s true, at least according to Scott Stevens.
Stevens hasn’t masturbated in 17 years, 43 days, and 16 hours and he’s “declared war on masturbation” with his $65,000 Kickstarter for an anti-masturbation app called Mastur Plan.
There’s no other way to put this — his Kickstarter is INSANE.
Let’s take a closer look: Here’s how it works: the user will use a Log Activity button to mark each “instance of masturbatory activity… any extenuating circumstances or triggers (that led to jerking off)… and times when [users] were tempted to indulge, but successfully withheld.” More
Secret pagan basilica in Rome emerges from the shadows after 2,000 years
A mysterious Roman basilica built for the worship of an esoteric pagan cult and now lying hidden more than 40ft below street level has opened to the public for the first time.
The basilica, the only one of its kind in the world, was excavated from solid tufa volcanic rock on the outskirts of the imperial capital in the first century AD.
Lavishly decorated with stucco reliefs of gods, goddesses, panthers, winged cherubs and pygmies, it was discovered by accident in 1917 during the construction of a railway line from Rome to Cassino, a town to the south.
An underground passageway caved in, revealing the entrance to the hidden chamber. More
Survey Finds That Christians Have the Most Abortions
Over 40 percent of women who have had an abortion say they were frequent churchgoers at the time they ended their pregnancies and about a half of them say they kept their abortions hidden from church members, new LifeWay Research shows.
In a survey released Monday that was sponsored by the pregnancy center support organization Care Net, researchers from the Christian research group LifeWay found that about 70 percent of women who had an abortion self-identified as Christians, while 43 percent say they attended a Christian church at least once per month or more at the time they aborted their child.
The survey, which interviewed 1,038 respondents who've all had abortions, found that 20 percent of the respondents attended church at least once a week at the time of their first pregnancy termination. Six percent said they attended church more than once per week, while about 54 percent said they rarely or never attended a church. More
Bill Maher Blames Fundamentalist Religion for California Shooting
Comedian and “Real Time” host Bill Maher took to Twitter to provide what would have been a preview of Friday night’s episode were he not on hiatus until the new year, blaming the mass-killing in San Bernardino on religious fundamentalism — and doing so, it should be mentioned, without singling out Islam.
Christian Couple Sue for Right to Keep Their Kids Uneducated as They Await Rapture
On Monday, the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Christian parents of homeschooled children have to follow basic educational standards or if they're allowed to keep their kids blissfully free of knowledge as they wait to be whisked off to heaven.
Texas couple Michael and Laura McIntyre homeschooled their nine children in a motorcycle shop, where the kids did little by way of school work besides play instruments and sing songs, according to witnesses. One relative overheard a child say that there was no point in doing real school work because, "they were going to be raptured," the AP reports.
The family got on school officials' radar when their oldest daughter ran away and tried to enroll in school. The El Paso school district demanded they show proof the kids were getting a proper education, prompting the couple to sue the district for displaying anti-Christian bias and a "startling assertion of sweeping governmental power," the AP reports. More
Is religion doing enough to root out abuse?
From when Karen Morgan was 12, until she was well into her teens, she was sexually abused by her uncle - a ministerial servant with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
He would go upstairs, on the premise that he was saying a prayer with his niece, then sexually abuse her.
Now in her 30s, Karen wasn't understood when she first told her parents what her uncle, Mark Sewell, was doing. Sewell was also the son of a trusted older member of the local Jehovah's Witnesses congregation, known as an elder.
Christian churches, as well as other religions, have faced claims of child abuse. But what is striking about the Jehovah's Witnesses is their explicit policy of dealing with abuse in-house.
Because of their practice of following the Bible literally, they insist there must be two witnesses to a crime, often not the case in child abuse cases. However, in Karen's case a second witness did come forward: Wendy, a family friend and fellow member of the Barry congregation in south Wales. She had been raped by the same man. More
The psychology behind religious belief
Throughout history, scholars and researchers have tried to identify the one key reason that people are attracted to religion. Some have said people seek religion to cope with a fear of death, others call it the basis for morality, and various other theories abound.
But in a new book, a psychologist who has studied human motivation for more than 20 years suggests that all these theories are too narrow. Religion, he says, attracts followers because it satisfies all of the 16 basic desires that humans share.
"It's not just about fear of death. Religion couldn't achieve mass acceptance if it only fulfilled one or two basic desires," said Steven Reiss, a professor emeritus of psychology at The Ohio State University and author of The 16 Strivings for God (Mercer University Press, 2016).. More
Mexican Woman Sees Jesus in her Tortilla
Enedina Mendoza, a tortilla maker from the Tlalixtac de Cabrera town in Oaxaca, Mexico claims that Jesus’ face has miraculously appeared in one of the tlayadas (tortilla) she was preparing.
The claimed apparition happened a couple of weeks before the town’s feast of Santo Guillermo (Saint William) on June 25. According to Mendoza, she initially decided not to attend the festival which led to an argument with her fellow devote sister. While preparing her tortillas that day, she noticed that a particular pancake wasn’t browning as expected. Upon careful inspection of that piece, she noticed that the tortilla is clean and not toasted except for a small spot which according to her resembles the face of Jesus.
Mendoza never consumed neither sold the “miraculous” tortilla and instead put it on display in her altar together with the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other Catholic saints. She has also shared the news to her sister who claimed that it’s a sign that Mendoza should attend the festival. More
Pastor Rapes Boys & Escapes Jail Time
Starting since back in 2007, Iowa pastor Brent Girouex, 31, began his violent campaign to “rape away the gay” of four teenage boys.
Girouex reportedly explained his actions to police by saying, “when they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind.”
Additionally, praying while he had sexual contact with his victims in an effort to keep them “sexually pure” for God.
Arrested in 2011 and charged with 60 counts of rape, Girouex had his 17 year sentence suspended by a judge this week, to “allow Girouex to get sex offender treatment and probation. Girouex’s probation will last five years — the maximum allowed by law.” More
Laura Prepon from ‘Orange is the New Black’ opens up about Scientology
"Orange Is the New Black" star Laura Prepon says she is able to handle the pressures of showbiz without breaking a sweat because she is a "thetan" -- a spiritual being attached to her own body that may be an outer space alien.
Which is to say, Prepon is big into Scientology.
So much so that she was on the cover of the recent issue of "Celebrity Magazine," a magazine made by and for members of America's most controversial religion.
“When you really cognate that you are a thetan and you have a mind and body, and that the MEST universe does not control you - it puts things into perspective," Prepon is quoted as saying in the interview. "It takes the weight off you and things become very easy." More
Could the discovery of life elsewhere negatively impact religion or will it prove God exists?
By the turn of the 21st Century, the human race has witnessed massive advancements in astronomy and our understanding of the universe. Gone are the days when we only know basic facts of our solar system.
Today, experts at NASA and other space agencies are exploring the depths of the universe searching for clues as to how the universe and planets were formed and there’s also the unending probe for the existence of life or a livable planet somewhere else.
The most recent and exciting discovery made by the Kepler telescope was the existence of an earth-like planet several billion miles away from our home.
Planet Kepler-452b is now often referred to as Earth 2.0. Whether there’s life on this distant planet or there’s none, it will take quite some time for us to find out. More
Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse and oust a victim
McALESTER, Okla. – In the summer of 2012, the elders in Debbie McDaniel’s congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses expelled her for having a sexual relationship with a woman. They announced her punishment to the congregation and notified the organization’s headquarters in New York. The consequences were clear: She would be shunned by the Witnesses – including her mother, father, sister and brother – and lose her chance at eternal life.
Jehovah’s Witnesses call their version of excommunication disfellowshipping, a punishment by shunning to rid the faithful of bad associations with those who break the laws of God. Once they’re expelled, the disfellowshipped cannot have any contact with Witnesses, even polite acknowledgment on the street, until they have proved their repentance and willingness to return obediently to the organization. In some cases, they’re shunned for the rest of their lives. More
Russians feel less positive towards religion now than they did in 1990
OVER the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet system, Russian feelings about religion have changed a lot, as one might imagine. In Soviet times, the state expected and encouraged citizens to be atheists. Now a loose affiliation to a religious faith has become the national default mode; a plurality of Russians tell pollsters they are Russian Orthodox, while significant minorities identify with Islam, Buddhism or Judaism.
But a survey published a few days ago by one of Russia's best-known pollsters, VTSIOM, showed something unexpected in its comparison of present-day attitudes in Russia with those of 1990. Although there is a jump (from 23% to 55%) in the share of people who say they are sometimes "helped" by religion in their own lives, the general effect of religion on human welfare is viewed in much bleaker terms than before.
The proportion of people who think religion does more good than harm to society has slumped from 61% to 36% while the share detecting more harm than good has risen from 5% to 23%. More
Secrets Of the Extreme Religious Right: Inside the Frightening World Of Christian Reconstructionism
As an unprecedented shift in public opinion brought about the legalization of gay marriage, a vigorous counter-current has been intensifying under the banner of “religious freedom”—an incredibly slippery term.
Perhaps the most radical definition of such freedom comes out of the relatively obscure tradition of Christian Reconstructionism, the subject of a new book by religious studies scholar Julie Ingersoll, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism. As Ingersoll explains, Reconstructionists basically reject the entire framework of secular political thought in which individual rights have meaning, so “freedom” as most Americans understand the term is not the issue at all. Indeed, they argue that such “freedom” is actually slavery—slavery to sin, that is. Reconstructionists aim to establish a theocracy, though most would no doubt bristle at that description. They do not want to “take over the government” so much as they want to dismantle it. More
Islamic State militants throw another man off building for 'being gay'
Photographs show huge crowds packing the street below the building to leer at the young man being hurled to his death in Raqqa, the Islamic State's de-facto capital in Syria.
One image shows bearded militants, dressed in all-black, filming the man's barbaric fall from the edge of the town's tallest building.
The victim, believed to be in his mid-20s, is then seen plummeting towards the ground where he is pictured laying lifeless and encircled by sick IS supporters brandishing military-grade weaponry.
The images - believed to have come from an as-yet unreleased IS propaganda video - were distributed by activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently who work undercover in the city. More
Wheaton drops student health insurance to avoid Obamacare contraception mandate
CHICAGO, — Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school Ilinois, will stop providing health insurance to students on Friday because of its objection to the Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptive coverage, a legal group has announced.
The decision affects about 500 of 3,000 students at the nondenominational liberal arts school — nicknamed the “evangelical Harvard” — in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington-based legal group that represents the college.
Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said in a statement that the government’s insistence that the college provide insurance services that contradict its religious beliefs forced it to make this “difficult choice.” More
Harare pastor rapes a 15 year old girl
HARARE: A senior pastor with Kingdom Fellowship ministries Wednesday appeared in court for allegedly raping his 15 year old girlfriend.
Magistrate Elijah Makomo did not ask Elisha Nhando of Borrowdale to plead as he remanded him to Thursday for trial.
But the case was to be postponed to next Monday as Makomo was absent on Thursday.
According to the state, sometime in October last year Nhando took the juvenile, whose name cannot be revealed for professional reasons, from her place of residence in Domboshawa as her guardian up to 22 June this year. More
Craft beer meets religion in Fort Collins
"Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do." — Ecclesiastes 9:7
When Rev. J.P. Channels came to Fort Collins from the Midwest late last year to interview for a leading church position, he found himself on a brewery tour.
"We love our beer, and folks in our congregation love Fort Collins beer," explained Melissa St. Clair, pastor of Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). "In fact, when J.P. was interviewing out here, we kept selling the beer."
Channels moved to Colorado to join St. Clair at Heart of the Rockies, on South Lemay Avenue and Trilby Road. The 23-year-old mainline protestant church's founding pastor had just retired, and St. Clair thought the timing was right to introduce a new pastor at a new church event: Beer & Hymns. More
Think religion is dead? Just look at ‘Game of Thrones.’
What academics loftily call “the secularization thesis” is by now so dead it is almost disrespectful to speak ill of it. Here are its contours: Back in modernity, it was taken for granted that religion would gradually die away, replaced by the logical matters of reason and politics, something we should have managed by now. As we became more enlightened, we’d obviously become less religious, right?
But here we are in the 21st century, and religion shows few signs of slowing. People channeling and claiming the raw power of the gods is barely even surprising anymore. ISIS, for instance, is just our backdrop.
North Americans have an entertaining habit of working out our anxieties about religion on TV. And this season of “Game of Thrones” is as great a catharsis as secularization zealots can hope for. More
Montana Republican: Noah Was 600 Years Old When He Built the Ark, So Why Do Americans Need Retirement?
WASHINGTON -- Greg Gianforte, a multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur who is "seriously considering" challenging Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) in 2016, doesn't believe he has to divorce his Christian faith from his professional life.
The potential candidate started the software company RightNow Technologies in 1997 and sold the firm to Oracle for $1.5 billion in 2011. Now, he's traveling around the state promoting his Better Montana Jobs initiative, which includes a focus on telecommuting as a means to attract college graduates to Montana. As he gears up for a potential race against Bullock, Gianforte's support for socially conservative policies has drawn scrutiny to his record.
In a February talk at the Montana Bible College about how to find "godly purpose" in work, Gianforte explained why retirement isn't consistent with biblical teachings.
"There's nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it's been an accepted concept in our culture today," he said. "Nowhere does it say, 'Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach.' It doesn't say that anywhere." More
How Christianity's Eastern history has been forgotten
Christianity has a history that most of us know little about. A history that spreads eastward as well as westward, writes former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams for BBC Newsnight.
We would probably take it for granted that someone reading a religious text in Arabic would be a Muslim - but the truth is that you will find plenty of Christians reading their Bibles and books of prayers in the language.
It is a sharp reminder of the diversity that once marked the Arabic-speaking world. It is a reminder, too, of aspects of Christianity's history the majority of us have little idea about: a period when there were probably as many Christians in Asia as in Europe. More
Jehovah’s Witnesses ask for Money. Again. But this time around, it’s in a sweet, sweet Music Video.
“I give to you, Jehovah, the best I have to give”, sings a voice while a young Jehovah’s Witnesses woman happily donates money to JW.org via credit card. This is just one of two scenes in a new music video from JW.org illustrating what the Governing Body really means when they want folks to give the best they have to give.
In January, JW Alumni already reported on the not-so-subtle call for money in the 2015 Yearbook. Just five months on and they’re asking for donations again. This time it is part of a music video accompanying the Jehovah’s Witness song Honor Jehovah with Your Valuable Things (you can watch it here) in the May 2015 JW Broadcasting episode.
Lest any viewer misses what the Governing Body is driving at, the video illustrates the point in case. Jehovah’s Witnesses need money. In the beginning, a friendly older lady sells some eggs, the proceeds of which go straight to the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then, a tad later, a young woman whisks out her credit card to give money to the Governing Body via JW.org. More
‘Peeping-Tom rabbi’ seeks to avoid prison in voyeurism scandal
An attorney for the prominent Washington rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping dozens of women naked during ritual baths asked a judge to sentence him to community service, not prison, according to court records.
Prosecutors are seeking a 17-year prison term for Rabbi Barry Freundel, 63, who will be sentenced on Friday (May 15). He pleaded guilty in February to recording the women between early 2009 and October 2014, using devices installed in two changing rooms for the National Capital Mikvah, next to the Kesher synagogue in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
Freundel attorney Jeffrey Harris, in a memo filed on Friday in response to the prosecutor’s request, said Freundel has been punished enough by being publicly humiliated and losing his job. More
Maryland bishop charged in DUI death is defrocked by Episcopal Church
An Episcopal bishop in Maryland who’s facing manslaughter charges in the drunk-driving death of a bicyclist has been defrocked and “will no longer function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church.”
Heather Cook was a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Maryland when she was charged with manslaughter in the Dec. 27 hit-and-run death of cyclist Tom Palermo, a 41-year-old husband and father of two, in Baltimore. Within a month of the accident, the diocese that she had helped lead for just three months asked her to resign.
Cook, who is free on bail and seeking treatment for alcoholism, faces 13 charges including drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident and causing an accident due to texting while driving. More
Jehovah’s Witnesses To Pay $13.5 Million: Child Sexual Abuse Isn’t Just A Catholic Problem
We are used to hearing about Catholic priests molesting children and the Church covering up the crime, but sexual abuse is not only a Catholic problem.
A $13.5 million judgment has been ruled in San Diego Superior Court against The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the organization that oversees Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The court finds a church elder, Gonzalo Campos, guilty of sexually abusing then 7-year-old Jose Lopez in the mid 1980’s. The abuse took place during Spanish Congregation bible study at the Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Linda Vista, California.
ABC 10 News was told by Attorney Irwin Zalkin that The Watchtower knew Campos had been accused of abusing children years before he even met Lopez. The Watchtower swept the sexual abuse under the rug.
Zalkin says six other people have settled sexual abuse cases with The Watchtower and another lawsuit will go to trial in June. He believes these cases are only the tip of the iceberg and “there are probably hundreds if not thousands of perpetrators.” More
Vatican kicks off environmental push with climate change summit
Top officials from the Vatican, the head of the United Nations and leading scientists came together at a summit Tuesday (April 28) in Vatican City to label the fight against man-made climate change as a “moral issue.”
“Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development,” said Ban Ki Moon, U.N. secretary-general, in the keynote speech.
“It is a moral issue. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics,” the secretary-general said, adding that “climate change is the defining issue of our time.” More
Georgia Pastor Wants His Flock to Give Him $65 Million So He Can Buy a Private Jet
Pastor Creflo Dollar runs Creflo Dollar Ministries, based in the Atlanta-area with international affiliates in several other countries.
As a part of his work, Dollar travels globally to preach to various global audiences. But the private plane he has been using had a mechanical problem, and now it has to be replaced.
Thus Project G650 was born. The aptly-named Dollar is asking his flock to raise the $65 million he needs to purchase a Gulfstream G650 private jet so he can continue to travel abroad. He's specifically asking for $300 from each member of his flock, which would allow him to get to the $65 million he needs.
It's unclear why Dollar has not considered the option of flying commercial and/or personally traveling less – rather than asking his flock to donate so generously so he can obtain a private jet that typically seats 18 people and has a range of 7,000 nautical miles. More
Jehovah's Witnesses video slammed for threatening kids with death for not paying attention in church
A Jehovah's Witness promotional cartoon has been slammed for appearing to threaten children who don't pay attention in church with death.
Viewers have dubbed the controversial animated clip, posted to YouTube by JW.org, as "stupid," "dumb" and "mind control."
It begins with two youngsters attending a service with their parents. A little boy plays with his car, while his sister almost falls asleep. Both are then told off for not focusing on what the preacher is saying. The family arrives home and, as they sit down to eat, their mom asks what they learned at church.
"No sleeping at the meeting," replies the girl. Her sibling then grumpily adds, "No playing at the meeting."
Their father then explains exactly why they should pay attention. "Imagine if Noah didn't pay attention when Jehovah explained how to build the Ark," he says. The cartoon cuts to Noah playing on a video game and not listening to God's instructions before the sky goes dark and rain begins to fall. He runs into a building which falls apart. The screen fills with water and the game floats by with "Game Over" written on it. More
San Francisco Church Installs Watering System to Drench Homeless and Keep Them Away
KCBS, a news station in San Francisco, has a shocking story about Saint Mary's Cathedral, the main church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The station has learned that the cathedral has installed a special watering system to keep homeless people from sleeping in the doorways. Similar anti-homeless measures have been carried out in other cities including London and New York, as Allegra Kirkland recently reported.
The church has a sign saying “No trespassing” but it posts no warnings that people who lie down in the doorway will be sprayed by water. KCBS notes that the sprinkler system in the ceiling above the doorway “ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people and their belongings.” More
Older than Stonehenge, mystifying moon god stones uncovered in Israel
The crescent moon is a symbol of Islam. Muslim, Jewish and Christian holidays revolve around cycles of the moon. So it’s no big surprise that an ancient structure, devoted to the moon, has recently been uncovered in Israel.
Israel is the birthplace of monotheism, belief in one God, but this new structure paid homage to a Mesopotamian-era moon god, new research uncovers. Older than Stonehenge and older than many pyramids, it is not just a stone wall as it was once believed.
Israeli archeologists originally thought that the structure, located in Northern Israel, and known as the Jethro Cairn, or Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb transliterated from Arabic, was part of an ancient city found near the Sea of Galilee. More
Libyan parliament confirmed the death of 21 kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christians
Libyan parliament confirmed Saturday the death of 21 kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christian workers in Libya following photos released by an English publication affiliated with the ‘Islamic State’, called Dabeq, claiming their execution.
The Libyan legislative body said that the workers were killed by the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ group, often referred to as ISIS, in the city of Sirte, according to state newspaper Al-Ahram.
The Egyptian government has asserted it “will spare no effort for the kidnapped”, but has not confirmed the execution of 21 kidnapped Egyptian Coptic workers in Libya by ‘Islamic State’. More
Jehovah’s Witness Leader Rants Against Higher Education, Saying It’ll Lead to “Spiritual Disaster”
Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body member Tony Morris is the host of the January video on the new JW online television network and what he says is a terrifying tirade against higher education.
You can see the full episode here since it’s not embeddable, but in short, they show us that what JWs fear the most is being challenged on their beliefs — and places where your beliefs are scrutinized are to be avoided at all costs.
At the 4:30 mark: … all too often, our young people have met with spiritual disaster, especially after leaving home and living on a university campus. So parents and children, you need to have a goal and you need to have a plan. If you’re missing either one, Satan will provide it for you. Young people, ask yourself: Why am I considering additional education? Is it because I’m pursuing a specific skill or trade to support my service to Jehovah? Or have I been pressured by the system into believing that higher education will somehow make me a more respected person or lead me to a better life? More
Pat Robertson recommends reverse mortgage because Jesus needs money
Jesus loves you, and he needs money: Televangelist Pat Robertson tells an elderly woman with financial problems a reverse mortgage will allow her to continue to offer financial support to his ministry.
On Tuesday’s 700 Club, Robertson read and discussed an email sent by an impoverished senior citizen named Maria who was having a hard time making ends meet while financially supporting Robertson’s 700 Club. Maria writes:
Robertson was all in favor of the reverse mortgage, because, you know, Jesus needs more money. In his response to Maria, Robertson pointed out that a reverse mortgage prevented the bank from taking “your house away from you as long as you are alive and living.” More
Newsboys' Former Member George Perdikis Is Now An Outspoken Atheist
One of the original members of a world-renowned Christian rock band has come out as an atheist.
George Perdikis, an early member of Newsboys, says he’s lost his faith
in God -- and that the band’s current members aren’t as squeaky clean
as they appear to be.
Perdikis wrote about his faith journey in a Patheos blog:
Tampa homeless program uses unpaid, destitute residents as steady labor force, revenue source
TAMPA — Before every Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game, dozens of men gather in the yard at New Beginnings of Tampa, one of the city's largest homeless programs.
The men — many of them recovering alcoholics and drug addicts — are about to work a concessions stand behind Raymond James Stadium's iconic pirate ship, serving beer and food to football fans. First, a supervisor for New Beginnings tries to pump them up.
"Thank God we have these events," he tells them. "They bring in the prime finances." But not for the workers. They leave the game sweat-soaked and as penniless as they arrived. The money for their labor goes to New Beginnings. The men receive only shelter and food.
For years, New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison has sent his unpaid homeless labor crews to Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair. For their shelter, he's had homeless people work in construction, landscaping, telemarketing, moving, painting, even grant-writing. More
Muslim Teacher Raped Kids So Badly One Needed Surgery To Repair Her Genitals
Police are hunting the former head teacher of a private Islamic school accused of the sexual abuse and rape of two middle school female students.
Tariq Ahmad, 35, who worked at Nur-Ul-Islam Academy, Florida, has been charged with five first degree counts after the alleged abuse which left one student needing 'substantial surgical repair'.
The girls were aged 14 and 15 when Ahmad allegedly forced them into sexual relationships, according to a lawsuit.
Their attorneys said Ahmed would use text messages, social media and even code on the chalk boards in the classroom to set up meetings with the girls. They also claim the Academy officials knew of Ahmed's illegal conduct for years and did nothing until now. More
Hamilton family left corpse upstairs for six months expecting resurrection
They believed it because they had prayed for it, every single day, while his corpse lay rotting for six months in an upstairs bedroom of their Hamilton home.
When neighbours asked about her husband, curious about the 52-year-old man's seeming disappearance, Kaling Wald would tell them he was "in God's hands now."
On Monday, Kaling, 50, pleaded guilty to failing to notify police or the coroner that her husband had died due to a sickness that was not being treated by a doctor. It's the first known case of its kind (involving the resurrection belief) in Canada.
The criminal charges originally laid in the case – neglect of duty regarding a dead body and offering an indignity to a body – were withdrawn and replaced with that single charge under the Coroner's Act.
Kaling had no ill intent, all agreed. As assistant crown attorney Janet Booy put it, the devout Christian woman's faith had "tainted and warped her better judgment." More
Jehovah's Witnesses Ordered to Pay $13.5M to Bible Teacher's Alleged Victim
A San Diego man who says he suffered "very aggressive abuse" as a child by his Bible study teacher was awarded a $13.5 million judgment Wednesday against the organization that oversees Jehovah's Witnesses churches.
Jose Lopez, now 35, was one of eight children who have accused Gonzalo Campos of sexually abusing them between 1982 and 1995, according to his lawsuit against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the entity that oversees Jehovah’s Witness churches.
Campos served in the leadership of the Linda Vista Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Playa Pacifica Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Pacific Beach.
In about 1986, when Lopez was 7 years old, Campos was first introduced to him as a fatherly figure who could teach him about the Bible. Instead, Campos used his position and time alone with Lopez to groom him, Zalkin said. More
Chaste No More: Why I Had to Abandon the Christian Purity Movement
“This is so we can stay pure and abstain from sexual sin,” he said as he awkwardly placed the purity ring onto my finger, and another one onto his. The ring’s engraving read, “True Love Waits.” I was 16. He was nearly 19. We were both virgins struggling to stay pure in an evangelical Christian community.
The Pentecostal church forbade any form of premarital sex. While leaders of the church didn’t specifically address oral, anal or masturbatory sex, its young congregants assumed it was all sin before marriage. Foreplay was an area rarely discussed. I asked one of my female mentors at the church about this one.
She referred to a verse in the Bible:
“Young women of Jerusalem, promise me by the power of deer and gazelles never to awaken love before it is ready.” — Song of Solomon 2:7, Contemporary English Version (CEV).
However, I later found out the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) version read:
“I warn you, daughters of Yerushalayim, by the gazelles and deer in the wilds, not to awaken or stir up love until it wants to arise!” More
Jews Spent Centuries in Antakya, Turkey. Now, There's Only 17 Left
Saul Cenudioglu remembers when his synagogue was full and when Muslims and Christians of this diverse Turkish city joined with Jews to celebrate marriages and births.
“I’m afraid in 15 or 20 years, people in Antakya might be saying, ‘Did you know there used to be Jews in this city?’” Cenudioglu said.
Antakya sits just 20 miles from the border with Syria, nestled in the fertile and lush mountainous region of Turkey’s southern Hatay province. The city of more than 200,000 has always been known across Turkey for its natural beauty and for its fresh fruit.
In recent years, though, with war on its doorstep and an influx of 30,000 Syrian refugees, the province has taken on a reputation as a hub for war-hardened fighters and an important lifeline for the Free Syrian Army. It has also become a popular crossing point for foreign jihadis seeking battle in Syria. More
Jehovah's Witness Leader Lets Loose on Tight Attire From 'Homosexual Designers'
A Jehovah’s Witness leader this weekend blamed gay fashion designers for what he considers immodest attire, ranting against tight pants and suggesting that the “metrosexual look” was engineered by gay fashion designers.
Anthony Morris III, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, let loose on tight-fitting attire for women and men during a meeting for the church’s U.S. branch Saturday, reports JW Survey, a website for dissident Witnesses and former Witnesses. Here are some highlights from Morris’s rant:
“Worldly women … even some of our sisters now … what it is is this spanx, this skin-tight stuff they wear ... when they exercise. They leave their home and they’re jogging in this stuff … is that appropriate? To wear skin-tight spanx, or whatever they call it? It’s not modest … It’s really not appropriate…. More
Pastor Rapes Boy, Threatens to Kill Him with ‘Warlock’ Powers if He Talks
A 30-year-old man claiming to be a youth pastor has been accused of raping a young boy and threatening witchcraft to keep him silent on the matter.
Rex Allen Murphy of Kentucky, who works for the Polly Ann Church of God in Eubank, faces charges of first-degree sexual abuse,use of a minor under 18 in a sexual performance, and third-degree sodomy, a Class D felony, according to the Commonwealth Journal.
The 16-year-old victim told Eubank police that Murphy made sexual contact with him. The alleged abuse took place over a six-month period, incidents occurring both at the victim’s home and the church. More
Iran’s non-Muslims face prison, execution, despite ‘reform’ claims
Iran’s regime conducted a raid on an Easter service and arrested Christians, subjected Christian converts to death threats and psychological abuse and shut down licensed churches, according to a UN report that will be submitted to world leaders on Tuesday.
While persecution of religious minorities is nothing new in the Islamic Republic, the 28-page catalog of horrors compiled by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Right in the Islamic Republic of Iran, undermines the claim that President Hassan Rouhani has ushered in a new era of tolerance.
“At least 49 Protestant Christians are currently detained, many for involvement in informal house churches,” the report states. “In April 2014, security forces reportedly raided an Easter service in a private home in southern Tehran and detained six individuals.” More
Seattle-based Mars Hill Church reeling after founding pastor calls women ‘homes’ for God's penis
Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll is under fire and the Pacific Northwest church he founded has been forced to shutter some locations and slash staff after he said women were created as a "very nice home" for God's penis.
Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, citing a 40% drop in attendance and acknowledging the personal crisis surrounding its founder, said the church will have to lay off up to 40% of its 100 staffers, The Seattle Times reported. The church also announced it would shutter at least three churches from Seattle to Phoenix. Driscoll apologized and took a six-week leave of absence after it came to light he wrote a blog post patronizing women in 2001 under a pseudonym. His beliefs, written under the name William Wallace II, were detailed by a feminist blogger for Patheos. More
Just weeks after converting to Islam, Daniel Munoz blamed killing his wife on the voice of Allah
A SYDNEY man stabbed his wife to death just weeks after converting to Islam — claiming he did it in the name of Allah, police allege.
“Allah told me to kill her,’’ Daniel Munoz allegedly said when questioned by police over the stabbing death of Melissa Munoz on October 20 last year.
Mrs Munoz had taken out a number of apprehended violence orders against her husband of 22 years after feeling threatened by him.
Police said the unemployed Munoz went to the family home in Hobartville in Sydney’s northwest where, at about 3.30pm, screams were heard.
Munoz is accused of standing over the 40-year-old mother of seven in the loungeroom of the home, holding her by her hair and stabbing her more than 10 times to the head and chest with a knife he had taken from the kitchen. Mrs Munoz, who worked at Big W at Rouse Hill, died at the scene. More
Pastor rapes boy: Church knew pastor was convicted sex offender
In Kentucky a pastor faces charges of repeatedly raping a 14-year-old boy who attended his church. Even more disgusting, the church knew they hired a registered violent sex offender to be their pastor, but believed the man had been forgiven by God.
Roy Neal Yoakem is accused of sexually assaulting the 14-year-old boy inside the New Gospel Outreach Church in Scottsville, Kentucky, as well as his home in Gallatin, Tennessee.
Previously, Yoakem had been required to register as a violent sex offender after being found guilty in 2005 of abusing an 8-year-old boy in Kentucky.
Officials at the Kentucky church acknowledged that they knew their pastor was a registered violent sex offender when they hired him. More
Jehovah's Witness elder jailed for 14 years for sexually abusing girls as young as 12 and raping one woman leaving her pregnant
A Jehovah’s Witness elder has been jailed for 14 years for sexually abusing girls as young as 12.
Mark Sewell, 53, raped one woman in his congregation in Barry, near Cardiff, leaving her pregnant.
He also molested one girl and abused two others in a string of attacks that spanned eight years.
But when the victims reported him to the church, a committee cleared him of all allegations - and shredded the evidence.
Finally, after 19 years, he has been found guilty of eight counts of sexual abuse. Judge Richard Twomlow told him: 'You were in a position of trust as a senior member of the church.
'Your victims felt inhibited about what they could say because of your position as an elder. More
Muslims say slaughterhouse proposal violates religious law
Muslim rights advocates in California are frustrated by a proposed state regulation on some slaughterhouses that would reportedly violate some people's religious beliefs.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is considering increasing food safety regulations that would in part order custom slaughterhouses to first stun animals before a nonemployee can come in and cut the animal's throat.
"In general, Muslims aren't supposed to eat meat that was stunned because halal requirements prohibit stunning," said Zahra Billoo, the Bay Area's executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Many Muslims believe for an animal to be slaughtered in accordance with the Quran, it must be killed by cutting its throat with a long sharp blade, causing it to bleed to death. The animal cannot be rendered unconscious or killed beforehand, the council wrote in a letter to the Department of Food and Agriculture after notice was given about the proposed regulation. More
Downwardly mobile for Jesus
BALTIMORE, Md. — At the corner of Laurens Street and Fulton Avenue, a man watches Matthew Loftus walk by with his 21-month-old daughter, Naomi, strapped to his back. “She got big!” the man says.
Loftus, 27, says something friendly back, but he’s not sure who the man is. “My eyesight is actually really bad,” he says.
As he runs an errand in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, people notice Loftus before he notices them. On Presstman Street, where Loftus rented before buying a home several blocks away, a young girl in a school uniform smiles and says, “I see you’re visiting the old neighborhood.” A group of men playing cards on the corner asks about the rabbits that he and his wife, Maggie Loftus, 25, were raising the last time they saw him. In front of a Monroe Street car wash, a man spies Naomi. “She still gorgeous!” he says. “Tell your wife I said hi.” More
'There were 12 elders and not one of them stood up: Victim of Jehovah's Witness rapist describes torment
Victims of a sexual predator who preyed on fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses had to face their alleged abuser in hearings organised by their church.
The “vulnerable” victims – including a woman pinned down and raped by heavy-set former church elder Mark Sewell and a schoolgirl whom he kissed and fondled – were even banned from talking about their allegations.
At least two of Sewell’s victims in the Barry congregation had to lock eyes with him during “judicial committee” hearings run by the church when they reported his depraved attacks. When faced with his first victim – then just a teenage schoolgirl – Sewell branded her a “liar” and rubbished her claims.
It was during this investigation that the elders received another complaint about Sewell, with a woman in the congregation claiming he had raped her. They included the complaint in the investigation but the businessman, now 53, twice contacted her “in an attempt to stop her telling the judicial committee the truth”, prosecutor Sarah Waters told the jury during the trial opening. More
Facing fines, conversion or death, Christian families flee Mosul
Baghdad, Iraq -- Just days after the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said they killed hundreds of Syrians, dozens of Iraqi Christian families are now fleeing the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, hoping to avoid a similar fate.
On Friday, the al Qaeda splinter group issued an ultimatum to Iraqi Christians living in Mosul -- by Saturday at noon (5 a.m. ET), they must convert to Islam, pay a fine or face "death by the sword."
A total of 52 Christian families left the city of Mosul early Saturday morning, with an armed group prohibiting some of them from taking anything but the clothes on their backs.
Some of the families headed for Irbil -- which is currently controlled by Kurdish forces -- and others toward the Dohuk province. The majority went to Dohuk, which is 140 kilometers (87 miles) north of Mosul. More
Berlin House of One: The first church-mosque-synagogue?
An architecture competition has been held and the winner chosen. The striking design is for a brick building with a tall, square central tower. Off the courtyard below will be the houses of worship for the three faiths - the synagogue, the church and the mosque. It is to occupy a prominent site - Petriplatz - in the heart of Berlin.
The location is highly significant, according to one of the three religious leaders involved, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin. "From my Jewish point of view the city where Jewish suffering was planned is now the city where a centre is being built by the three monotheistic religions which shaped European culture," he told the BBC.
Can they get on? "We can. That there are people within each group who can't is our problem but you have to start somewhere and that's what we are doing." More
Christian giant sued for 'using nanny as sex object'
The former leader of a popular Christian ministry – who resigned from his position after confessing to an “inappropriate” relationship – is now the subject of a lawsuit that claims he “methodically groomed” and made unwanted sexual contact with a young woman after serving as an authority figure in her life for more than a decade.
Doug Phillips, a husband and father of eight children, had been a popular and controversial figure in the homeschooling movement and a leading advocate of “biblical patriarchy” before his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries and Boerne Christian Assembly, a Baptist church outside San Antonio, Texas, at which he had served as an elder and preached hundreds of sermons.
Phillips was also founder of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. According to the teachings of the patriarchy movement, also known as the stay-at-home daughters or quiverfull movement, young women remain at home under the protection of their fathers. They’re generally expected not to work outside their home or go to college, and they’re taught to abide by strict gender roles in which men have authority over women. More
Convicted Christian rock singer lets loose a shocking revelation
Tim Lambesis, frontman of Christian heavy metal band As I Lay Dying, shocked fans after he was charged with conspiring to murder his wife and sentenced to six years in prision in March. Now, Lambesis admits that he is actually an atheist and tricked fans into thinking he was Christian to sell more records, Christian News reports.
“Truthfully, I was an atheist,” Lambesis told the Alternative Press. “I actually wasn’t the first guy in As I Lay Dying to stop being a Christian. In fact, I think I was the third. The two who remained kind of stopped talking about it, and then I’m pretty sure they dropped it, too.”
Lambesis claims that he began to stray from his Christian faith while he was majoring in religious studies in college.
“In the process of trying to defend my faith, I started thinking the other point of view was the stronger one,” he said.
The rocker admits that he leaned on atheism to justify many of his actions. More
Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
Denmark’s government has brought in a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat, after years of campaigning from welfare activists.
The change to the law, announced last week and effective as of yesterday, has been called “anti-Semitism” by Jewish leaders and “a clear interference in religious freedom” by the non-profit group Danish Halal.
European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds. For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.
Yet defending his government’s decision to remove this exemption, the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”. More
2nd Wiccan Police Officer Sues LAPD for Harassment
A veteran Los Angeles police sergeant is joining his LAPD officer wife in suing the city, alleging he was also discriminated against because of his Wiccan religion and experienced a backlash when he complained to management.
Sgt. A.J. DeBellis, like his wife, Officer Victoria DeBellis, alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation and seeks unspecified damages.
An LAPD spokesman declined to comment on the latest complaint, which was filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court. A.J. DeBellis, who joined the LAPD in 1990, alleges the retaliation began after he complained about having to attend a mandatory training session and holiday gathering in December 2012 at the main chapel of The Church at Rocky Peak, a Christian church in Chatsworth.
The chapel displayed "religious iconography" and religious music was played "during a significant portion of the event," according to his lawsuit. DeBellis, who was assigned to the Devonshire Division at the time, says he also was required to sit through a recital of a Christian prayer. More
Pastor accused of bilking faithful
STRATFORD -- To members of the Stratford Baptist Church, he was "Pastor Bob," the warm, giving religious leader for the past 16 years of the historic church across from Paradise Green.
But to police and his alleged victims, Robert Genevicz is a con artist who, with a female accomplice, has bilked elderly parishioners out of their life savings, using the money in one case to buy a Mercedes and a Hummer.
"My client has lost a substantial amount of money, and we are now concerned she may not continue to have the life she deserves," said Milford lawyer Joseph Mager Jr., who represents a 71-year-old retired Stratford teacher who police said was scammed by Genevicz out of more than $173,000. "She is living in an assisted-living facility, but we don't know how long she will be able to stay there until the money runs out." More
Mormon church pushes back on planet misconceptions
SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon Church is pushing back against the notion that members of the faith are taught they'll get their own planet in the afterlife, a misconception popularized in pop culture most recently by the Broadway show "The Book of Mormon."
A newly-posted article affirms the faith's belief that humans can become like God in eternity, but says the "cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets" is not how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints envision it.
"While few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities," the article says.
The expectation of exaltation is more figurative and ambiguous than boiling it down to living on one planet, it says. More
Sex Scandal Rocks the Duggars’ Christian Patriarchy Movement
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have put many years and a lot of work into putting a smiling, nearly normal-seeming face on the extreme Christian right.
The couple adheres to a fringe strain of fundamentalist Christianity dubbed the “Christian patriarchy” or sometimes the “Quiverfull” movement, and while there is a lot of internal diversity to the movement, they generally preach a combination of beliefs that run counter to mainstream America: absolute female submission, a ban on dating, homeschooling, a rejection of higher education for women, and shunning of contraception in favor of trying to have as many children as humanly possible. The movement is controversial even within Christian right circles, but the Duggars have tried to counter that with their popular reality TV show 19 Kids & Counting, where they present themselves as a wholesome everyday family that just happens to be a little more fecund and conservative than average. More
Russian court declares Jehovah's Witness brochures extremist
A Russian court has declared brochures produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be extremist, the Prosecutor General’s Office said Monday.
The court in the southern city of Kurgan ruled that four pamphlets published by the Christian evangelical sect were discriminatory against people who did not belong to the organization.
The booklets were titled “How to Achieve Happiness in Life,” “What Can People Hope For?” “How to Develop a Close Relationship With God,” and “What You Need to Know About God and His Meaning.”
The prosecutor’s office said that analyses by linguistic experts had concluded that the brochures contained propaganda that promoted the superiority of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and denigrated other faiths as false. More
All-you-can-eat buffets banned by Saudi cleric’s fatwa
An Islamic cleric in Saudi Arabia has made a religious ruling prohibiting Muslims from indulging in all-you-can-eat buffets, it was reported, prompting ridicule on social media.
During a broadcast on Quranic TV network Al Atheer, Saleh Al Fawzan issued the fatwa, claiming that such activities were in breach of Islamic law.
"Whoever enters the buffet and eats for SAR10 or SAR50 without deciding the quantity they will eat is violating Sharia law," Al Fawzan said, according to Al Arabiya.
The report did not include any further details on the reasoning behind the religious edict. More
Gunning for God: Pastor to hold church raffle for AR-15-type rifle
Praise the Lord — and pass the ammunition!
An upstate pastor is planning to give away an unholy raffle prize at an upcoming service: an AR-15 assault rifle.
“We’re honoring gun owners and hunters,” the Rev. John Koletas, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, told the Daily News.
“And we’re being a blessing and a help to people who have been attacked, viciously attacked, by socialists and anti-Christian people — the politicians and the media.”
In a bid to lure as many gun lovers as possible to his church, Koletas even rolled out a provocative flier advertising the high-powered giveaway.
“My peace I give unto you . . . John 14:27,” blares the flier, which includes a photo of the deadly weapon under the headline: “Win a FREE AR-15. “ More
Mexican Catholics find God in Islam
MEXICO CITY — For almost five centuries Catholicism has been the dominant religion in Mexico.
In 1970, Catholics comprised 96.7 percent of Mexico’s population. By 2010, that number had fallen to 82.7 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Most of this change is attributed to growth in other Christian denominations. Evangelicals, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses now account for 8 percent of Mexicans who identify with a religion.
And a small yet growing group of converts are seeking spiritual salvation in Islam. In fact, Pew estimates Mexico will be home to 126,000 Muslims by 2030, up from 111,000 in 2010. Why are some Mexicans leaving the Catholic Church and converting? More
Kenyan pastor tells women to attend church without underwear so God enters them
Nairobi pastor Reverend Njohi has introduced a form of worship at his Lord’s Propeller Redemption Church in which female members of the congregation are banned from wearing underwear so God can enter their bodies easily.
After a recent meeting of the church’s elders, to debate the matter Reverend Njohi passed an edict banning the wearing bras and panties when attending service.
Defending the law, Reverend Njohi claims that when going to church, people need to be free in body and spirit to receive Christ.
Describing the wearing of underwear to church by women as ungodly, Reverend Njohi warned his members of dire consequences if they secretly did so. More
San Francisco church accused of lurid sex cover-up
There are charges of lurid sex and cover-ups at the landmark St Francis of Assisi Church in San Francisco's North Beach. The accuser is a former worker who just filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Jhona Mathews is a single mother in her 30s with a 2-year-old child. She worked in the administration office of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Mathews says church trustee Bill McLaughlin, who has since been fired, became her supervisor. Her lawsuit charges that he forced her to have sex and spanked her with a wooden paddle.
"Many of these sex acts and demands and the spankings occurred inside the shrine premises, in the sacristy of the shrine," said the plaintiff's attorney, Sandra Ribera. More
Jehovah's Witness sex offender receives five-year sentence
BISBEE - A 78-year-old man was sentenced, on Friday, to five years in state prison for the repeated sexual molestation of a female relative during her sleep-overs at the perpetrator's Fry Townsite home during the 1980s.
Leroy Gilbert pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 29 before Cochise County Superior Court Presiding Judge Tom Collins. Gilbert blamed excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages during the period from 1985 to 1989 for his behavior, according to the Adult Probation Office's pre-sentence report.
Gilbert also contended that "his generation" was not taught how wrong his actions were. Gilbert admitted molesting the victim, who was under the age of 15 at the time, while he thought she was asleep.
The girl was not asleep and reported the matter to elders of the Jehovah's Witnesses Church. She said church officials did not believe her, but court records show that Gilbert was questioned by church officials in 1997 about the allegations. More
Muslim leaders issue a fatwa against anyone living on MARS
A Fatwa has been issued against living on Mars by clerics who say that trying to set up home there would be un-Islamic.
The fatwa – or ruling – was issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the UAE after the Mars One organisation announced that it would try and establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.
The committee argued that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.
According to Khaleejtimes.com it said: ‘Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.’ More
Congregation attends church while in the nude
SOUTHAMPTON, VA - About an hour's drive south of Richmond, there's a small congregation that doesn't care about "material" things. They worship the same way we were all brought into this world, naked.
Even in February, when temperatures can average in the 20s, members show up in various forms: some fully clothed, others topless, many still completely nude.
Pastor Allen Parker says it's not about the clothes, or lack thereof. He says it's about baring his soul to Christ and leading his flock down that path of righteousness, no matter what they're wearing.
Every Sunday in the front few rows of White Tail Chapel, you'll find Katie and Robert Church. Katie wasn't a nudist when they first met, but quickly fell in love with both Robert and the resort. They married at White Tail Chapel and say the church has given them a sense of Christian community with none of the pretense of a traditional church. More
2 arrested after "Ten Commandments" argument turns violent
Two residents of Cartersville may have not directly broken one of the Ten Commandments, but they did break the law when their fight over the sacred covenant turned violent.
According to police reports, Carolyn Unfricht and Daniel Camarda were inside a Cartersville hotel arguing about the Bible and specifically the Ten Commandments.
Unfricht told police things got heated when she hit him across the face with her Bible. Camarda retaliated by throwing her across the room.
Both are now facing battery charges and not surprisingly, the police report states they were "highly intoxicated" at the time of the arrest. More
Pope supports breast-feeding in public
Supporters of public breast-feeding, you've got a friend in high places: The Vatican.
In an interview with La Stampa, a daily Italian newspaper, Pope Francis seemed to endorse the idea of nursing in public. As he was asked about the problem of hunger, the pope recalled a woman he encountered with a crying, hungry baby:
“There are so many children that cry because they are hungry,” the pope said in the Sunday interview. “At the Wednesday General Audience the other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few months old. The child was crying its eyes out as I came past. The mother was caressing it.”
“I said to her: madam, I think the child’s hungry.”
“Yes, it’s probably time…” she replied.
“Please give it something to eat!” I said.
“She was shy and didn’t want to breast-feed in public, while the Pope was passing. I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.”
The pope is clearly making a point about feeding the world's hungry: We have the resources to do it, he's saying, so we should.” More
Jehovah's Witness church elder Ronald Lawrence arrested over sex abuse claims
MCALESTER, Okla. - A 76-year-old McAlester man was arrested Tuesday on 19 counts of sexual abuse after police received claims he molested several children while in a position of authority more than 30 years ago.
McAlester police detectives were alerted to the alleged sexual crimes conducted by Ronald Lawrence back in August when his first accuser reported abuse at the hands of a Jehovah's Witness church leader.
A woman now in her 40s told detectives Lawrence, an elder at McAlester's Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, abused her when she was just eight years old, inviting her to his home, where he fondled her and raped her in his bathtub, according to her testimony found in Lawrence's arrest warrant, which was issued Tuesday. More
Pastor defrocked after performing gay wedding
The United Methodist church defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania on Thursday for violating doctrine by officiating his son's gay marriage, leaving the minister shocked and upset that he could be punished for an "act of love."
Frank Schaefer immediately appealed the penalty, which he believed was meted out reluctantly by many members of the regional Board of Ordained Ministry.
"So many of them came to me and they shook my hand and some hugged me, and so many of them had tears in their eyes," Schaefer said. "They said, 'We really don't want to do this, you know that, don't you?'"
Board members declined to comment after the private meeting at church offices in Norristown, outside Philadelphia. But John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the denomination, said Schaefer left officials no choice after defying the order of a religious jury to resign.
"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so," Coleman said. "Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury's decision to deem his credentials surrendered." More
Jail for Jehovah’s Witness elder who molested girls
A Jehovah's Witness elder who was exposed as a paedophile on Facebook has been jailed.
Jonathan Rose was branded a hypocrite as he was locked up for molesting two little girls he met through the church.
Manchester Crown Court heard that Rose, of New Moston , won the trust of his victims’ families before targeting their daughters. His youngest victim was just five-years-old when she was groped by him in her own home. The other was ten when Rose, then 27, kissed her sexually.
Rose was first accused of indecently assaulting a teenage girl he met through the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1995. He was acquitted of that offence in a trial and went on to become an elder in his congregation.
However, after his first accuser branded him a ‘paedo’ on Facebook , his crimes against the two other girls came to light. Rose was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault and has now been jailed for nine months and banned from visiting homes where there are children present. More
Iranian Christian flogged after drinking Communion wine
An Iranian Christian was flogged on Wednesday, according to rights groups, after a court in Rasht, Iran sentenced him and three other Christians to 80 lashes for drinking wine as part of a Holy Communion service.
According to the Middle East Correspondent for Morning Star News, Behzad Taalipasand, a convert from Islam, received the 80 lashes after being arrested on December 31, 2012 and sentenced this month for drinking alcohol, quoting two sources -- Middle East Concern (MEC) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"Drinking alcohol is not illegal for Christians, but as Shiah Islam is the state religion, it is prohibited for Muslims; the conviction and sentencing thus reflects the state view that a Muslim cannot change his/her religion," said the story. More
Catholic League outraged that imam costumes don’t come with erections
The Catholic League is upset over a Halloween costume featuring a sexually aroused priest and issued a statement asking why the store Spirit Halloween doesn’t sell similar costumes for imams and rabbis.
Spirit Halloween sells the costume, known as “Happy Priest,” alongside a “Thank You Father” costume that shows a pregnant nun.
The League’s Bill Donohue called both the costumes “offensive.”
“Anyone who wants to buy a costume with a rabbi or imam sporting an erection is out of luck — there are none available,” Donohue said in a statement.
“There are also no vulgar Jewish or Muslim women costumes available. Just ones for nuns.” More
Sun Valley usher gets 30 years for child sex abuse
SUN VALLEY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A former Sun Valley usher was sentenced to 30 years in state prison Tuesday for sexually abusing three boys.
Marcelo Lozano, 34, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The 34-year-old met his alleged victims through the Jehovahs Witnesses Sun Valley Spanish congregation, where he was an usher.
Police said the suspect used his position as an usher to meet and befriend his victims.
The alleged assaults took place between Jan. 1, 2006 and June 30 of this year at Lozano's home in North Hollywood, along with other locations. More
Brooklyn rabbi tortured Jewish husbands with cattle prod to force divorce
Two rabbis plotted to kidnap Jewish husbands, torture them with electric cattle prods and force them to grant their desperate wives religious divorces, the feds charged Thursday.
Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 68, of Brooklyn and Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, of Monsey, Rockland County, were among 10 people arrested in the barbarous scheme with tentacles that ran all the way to the rabbinical court.
Epstein is accused of running an unholy crew that charged women trapped in marital limbo $70,000 to $100,000 to strong-arm their stubborn husbands into granting a Jewish divorce known as a “get,” a criminal complaint reveals. More
Priest accused of offering Cleveland Metroparks ranger $50 for sex
CLEVELAND - A man was arrested for soliciting sex at Edgewater Park Friday. James McGonegal offered a Cleveland Metropark ranger $50 for sex, said park spokeswoman Sanaa Julien.
The ranger was not on detail and was in plain clothes at the time.
McGonegal was charged with a third-degree felony because he also admitted he knows he has HIV, Julien said.
McGonegal is a pastor at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Cleveland. More
Woman accuses member of West Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Lorain of sexual abuse
LORAIN, Ohio - A former member of the West Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Lorain filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the congregation, alleging she was sexually abused by one of the church leaders.
"I want to expose how they treat children and how they do not protect them," Elizabeth McFarland, 26, said at a news conference in Cleveland.
McFarland claims Scott Silvasy, who served as a "Ministerial Servant," gained her trust then sexually abused her for five years, beginning when she was 9 years old. She said Silvasy committed suicide on her 16th birthday.
Her attorney, Irwin Zalkin of San Diego, said the elders of the church did nothing when they learned of the abuse. More
Clergy More Likely to Suffer from Depression, Anxiety
The demands placed on clergy by themselves and others put pastors at far greater risk for depression than individuals with other occupations, a new study by the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School has found.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Primary Prevention, compared the mental health of 95 percent of the United Methodist clergy in North Carolina (1,726 pastors) to a representative sample of Americans and identified key factors that predict depression and anxiety. Clergy participants were predominantly male (75 percent) and white (91 percent); the mean age was 52 years old.
The study, conducted in 2008, found the depression rate among clergy to be 8.7 percent when responses were limited to telephone interviews that closely approximated the conditions of a national survey (the 2005-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). However, among clergy taking the survey via web or paper, the rate of depression was even higher: 11.1 percent—double the then national rate of 5.5 percent. More
Ancient Samson Mosaic Uncovered In Israeli Synagogue; Beautiful Art Fascinates Scholars
Beautifully preserved mosaics unearthed in a fifth-century Israeli synagogue have intrigued religious scholars with their depictions of both Biblical and possibly non-Biblical figures.
The stunning artwork was discovered as part of an ongoing excavation at a synagogue in Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s lower Galilee. A team has been working at the site since 2011, led in part by Jodi Magness, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Magness told The Huffington Post she originally began the excavation in order to examine a specific type of late Roman architecture known as a Galilee-type synagogue. But in 2012, the researchers found their first mosaic: a somewhat fragmentary depiction of the Biblical hero Samson. More
Team 10 obtains video of admitted child molester in Jehovah's Witnesses
SAN DIEGO - Team 10 has obtained a video that some people say helps to prove Jehovah's Witnesses covered up child abuse for years.
In a video deposition taken in 2011 during a civil lawsuit, admitted serial pedophile Gonzalo Campos said he abused several children in his San Diego congregation from the early 1980's through the mid 90's.
"I did abuse him," said Campos in the video. "I touched his private parts."
His on-camera admissions and a confidential settlement worth millions, may have to be enough for his victims. The Jehovah's Witnesses never told police about Campos, who was a church elder. He's never been charged with a crime and he may never see the inside of a prison cell. He has fled the country and now is in Mexico. He also still is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses.
An attorney questions Campos on the video, "Were you allowed to continue to give bible study to children after you attempted to touch (the victim) inappropriately?"
"Yes," Campos said.
Irwin Zalkin represents the seven victims who have come forward. More
‘Encyclopedia of Hinduism’ to be unveiled next week
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A comprehensive encyclopedia of one of the world’s major religions is set to be unveiled next week in South Carolina. The 11-volume work covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy, and is the culmination of a 25-year academic effort.
The encyclopedia is written in English and includes about 7,000 articles on Hinduism and its practices. The work also deals with Indian history, languages, art, music, dance, architecture, medicine, and women’s issues. The entire encyclopedia contains more than 1,000 illustrations and photographs.
Brightly colored images of Hinduism’s deities fill entire pages, with foot-noted explanations of the forms and powers God can take in the religion.
“The goal was to have something pretty definitive — not just about Hinduism, but about the whole South Asian tradition,” said University of South Carolina professor Hal French, who met with a small group of scholars in 1987 to offer academic support for the project. More
Muslim Honor Killing In Canada
Every night, little Yasin Wafa scurries over to his grandparents’ front door, hoping his mom will be picking him up as she used to.
For the past week, she hasn’t come.
Nasira Fazli, 31, was brutally stabbed dead last Friday in her Ajax home.
Her husband, Feraidon Mohammad Imbrahem, 31, is charged with second-degree murder.
He was arrested without incident Friday at their home and was remanded into custody Saturday. He will return to court Aug. 6.
Yasin, 17 months old, had just started calling Nasira Fazli “ma-ma” days before she was murdered, his grandmother says, adding he now cries for “ma-ma” when being put to bed. More
Church Usher Charged With Sexual Abuse of Boy Parishioners
An usher at a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Sun Valley was charged Wednesday with sexually abusing four boys he met at the church.
Marcelo Lozano, 34, is expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon at Van Nuys Superior Court with nine felony counts, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Lozano, who was an usher for the church’s Spanish congregation, allegedly abused boys who ranged from 8 to 15 years old between 2006 and 2013.
He is charged with two counts each of aggravated sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual abuse and oral copulation of a person under 14. And he faces one count each of forcible lewd act upon a child, lewd act upon a child and sodomy of a person under 14 with 10 years difference. More
Jehovah’s Witnesses hushed up child sex scandal
Jehovah Witness ministerial servant Gordon Leighton admitted sexually abusing a child when he was confronted by his church elders, a court heard.
But during the official police investigation, the 53-year-old – who made headlines in the 1990s when wife Yvonne, 28, died after refusing a blood transfusion after childbirth on religious grounds – denied any illegal wrongdoing.
And when detectives asked elders Simon Preyser, Harry Logan and David Scott to make statements about the confession, all three refused and said what they had heard was confidential.
For three years, the elders refused to co-operate with the criminal investigation and kept up that stance when the case was brought before Newcastle Crown Court after the victim made a complaint to police. Each was issued with a witness summons which they fought to overturn before being ordered to testify by Judge Penny Moreland citing public interest. More
Mormon Church: Fewer Knocks at the Door, More Friend Requests
SALT LAKE CITY — The common image of Mormon missionaries has long been two young men wearing white shirts and ties walking through neighborhoods, knocking door-to-door.
But in a few years, that image may be replaced by one of young Mormons sitting with an iPad, typing messages on Facebook.
Recognizing the world has changed, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders announced Sunday night that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.
The strategy shift reflects the growing importance of social media and people’s preference to connect over sites such as Facebook rather than opening their homes to strangers, church leaders said.
“The way in which we fulfill our responsibilities to share the gospel must adapt to a changing world,” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a presentation to mission presidents in Provo, Utah, that was broadcast worldwide. More
14 Year Old Boy Executed By Islamist Rebels in Syria
A teenager selling coffee in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was arrested by Islamist rebel fighters for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, beaten and then executed in front of his family, a watchdog group claims.
The boy, Mohammed Qatta, 14, reportedly refused to give a customer coffee, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sunday.
"Even if [Prophet] Mohammed comes back to life, I won't," the boy said, who was known by his nickname "Salmo."
Extremist rebels driving past in a black car overheard the comment, the opposition Aleppo Media Center said. Qatta was taken away by the fighters and later brought back, his head wrapped with his shirt and his body covered with marks from whipping. More
Up-skirt voyeur a Jehovah's Witness
A Jehova's Witness filmed up the skirts of hundreds of women and schoolgirls in central Wellington, and when visiting private homes to spread the faith.
Police believe at least 1000 women and girls could have been filmed by the man, 36, who would leave work at lunchtime to spy up their skirts on a handmade device attached to his briefcase.
The former Department of Internal Affairs employee, who has name suppression, has now been kicked out of his church. A member of his congregation at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kilbirnie confirmed he was not welcome back.
"He has been removed," the church member said. "Everybody has been very saddened by what has taken place. Any act of that nature is a concern." More
Religious Fundamentalism 'May Be Categorised As Mental Illness & Cured By Science'
Religious fundamentalism and cruelty to children may one day be treated in the same way as mental illness, a neuroscientist has speculated.
Kathleen Taylor, a research scientist at Oxford University’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, says strong negative beliefs could be eradicated using techniques already in the works.
Dr Taylor was speaking at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales when she was asked what she forsaw as positive developments in neuroscience in the coming years, The Times reports.
She replied: “One man’s positive can be another man’s negative. One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated.
“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance. More
Are Sharia councils failing vulnerable women?
In a small terraced house in east London, a woman and her husband argue before an Islamic scholar who sits on a dais above them in a room that looks and feels like a court.
This is Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, and Dr Suhaib Hasan will decide if the woman can have a divorce. Her husband is refusing to grant her one and the couple have been coming here for a year.
She accuses him of refusing to work, ignoring the children and verbally abusing her. He vehemently denies it. When Dr Hasan orders the husband to leave the room, the woman breaks down in tears.
"I hate him, I can't even bear to look at him, he has ruined my life," she sobs. Dr Hasan sends the couple away for another month to try to save their marriage, with the help of Allah. More
In China, Christian Fundamentalists Target Tibetans
When Dawa said yes to a party held by American friends in the city of Xining, she expected music, drinks, and a chance to practice her English. But it soon transpired that there would be more to the evening’s activities.
“When we arrived one person said loudly: ‘Lord!’ and started to cry,” Dawa, an earnest Tibetan in her late 20s, recalls in a café in Xining, the capital of China’s Qinghai province.
“Some people came and touched me and cried. We were so afraid. We thought, Why are they crying?”
For Dawa and her friend Tenzin (names have been changed to protect their identities), both Tibetans from nomadic families trying to make it in the big city, the situation was not only potentially dangerous if they had been caught by police but humiliating. “We were upset,” explains Tenzin. “They had told us we could learn English. More
Child in Jehovah's Witness court bid
A TRARALGON child has clubbed his pocket money together with three others, paying $69.70 to launch a private criminal prosecution against the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The child, 11, who is due to give evidence on Monday at the state inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse, wanted to force the church to comply with working with children laws. After four hearings, to which church leaders did not send a representative, the church began complying and the Office of Public Prosecutions intervened to discontinue the case.
The inquiry will also hear from anti-Jehovah's Witness campaigner Steven Unthank, a former member of the church who says he and his family were ostracised and persecuted after he tried to tackle child abuse.
His submission alleges the church and its incorporated body, the Watchtower Society, covered up criminal child abuse, including rape, sexual assault, death threats, blackmail and assault, across four states by ordained ministers and officers of the church.
The Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal will hear a religious vilification complaint against the church by Mr Unthank in May, after the church said people who left the church, as he had, were ''mentally diseased''. More
Muslim abuser who 'didn't know' that sex with a girl of 13 was illegal is spared jail
A muslim who raped a 13-year-old girl he groomed on Facebook has been spared a prison sentence after a judge heard he went to an Islamic faith school where he was taught that women are worthless.
Adil Rashid, 18, claimed he was not aware that it was illegal for him to have sex with the girl because his education left him ignorant of British law.
Yesterday Judge Michael Stokes handed Rashid a suspended sentence, saying: ‘Although chronologically 18, it is quite clear from the reports that you are very naive and immature when it comes to sexual matters.’
Earlier Nottingham Crown Court heard that such crimes usually result in a four to seven-year prison sentence. More
Elderly woman in public housing told not to pray, has no First Amendment rights
Ruth Sweats, an elderly widow who lives in a public housing complex near Minneapolis, Minnesota, was allegedly informed that she had no First Amendment rights, and could not pray nor read her Bible in the common area of the complex she lives in because it receives federal funding, Todd Starnes reported Friday at Fox News.
According to Starnes, the woman was also told she could not have "private discussions of a religious nature" in the common area of the Osborne Apartment complex in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota.
The website for the complex states that it is a "tax-exempt, non-profit organization" that is "managed by Ebenezer, which has provided quality services for older adults since 1917."
Starnes wrote that Sweats "was having a casual conversation with another resident about the Bible when a social worker interrupted the conversation and told her that she could not talk about religion or the Bible in the commons area." More
Jehovah's Witnesses 'a cruel cult'
Christian sect the Jehovah's Witnesses - with 64,000 active 'disciples' in Australia - are a cruel religion with no soul, according to Melbourne cultbuster Raphael Aron.
His warning comes as the federal government considers tightening the definition of a charity to prevent some cults and quasi-religions keeping their tax free status. Independent senator Nick Xenophon has renewed calls for a national cult-busting agency.
Mr Aron, a psychologist, counsellor and director of Melbourne's Cult Counselling Australia, said the Jehovah's Witnesses had a policy of "shunning" members who left or wanted to leave by cutting them off from family members who remained. More
San Francisco leaders denounce bus ads about Islam
SAN FRANCISCO — Civic officials joined Arab and Muslim leaders to denounce what they call offensive anti-Islamic ads that will appear on 10 buses for the next month in San Francisco.
The ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and feature Osama bin Laden, the Times Square car bomber and the alleged gunman in the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings accompanied by quotes about warfare and weapons that the group links to Islam.
At least one of the ads contains a quote attributed to the militant Islamic group Hamas that reads: "Killing Jews is worship that brings us closer to Allah."
Officials said the ads were racist. More
Former Jehovah's elder on sex assault charge
A FORMER Jehovah's Witness elder who apologised to his alleged victim on Facebook has been charged with two counts of indecent assault.
Richard Hill will appear in the Heidelberg Magistrate's Court on March 1 over allegations that he sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl in 1981.
The victim, now 38, told Fairfax Media that Mr Hill did everything except penetrate her - ''he tried, but couldn't manage''.
She said she ''did not realise the gravity'' of what had happened until she was about 14.
At that point she told her mother, who could not act because of a Jehovah's Witness rule that allegations of sexual abuse would only be acted on if two elders witnessed it, she said.
Much later, the victim confronted Mr Hill on Facebook. ''He turned around and apologised,'' she said. ''He became an elder within the church and rose quite high up. Since he was charged, he has stepped down.'' More
Churchgoers robbed at gunpoint during service in East St. Louis
EAST ST. LOUIS • Police are hoping surveillance cameras might help them catch three masked men who robbed churchgoers at gunpoint Sunday evening in East St. Louis.
The three robbers ordered the congregants onto the floor and took cash from them in the holdup about 5:30 p.m. Sunday at IRA Grove Free Will Baptist Church, 1701 Belmont Avenue.
On Monday morning, East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore said no arrests had been made and police don't have suspects. He said police are searching for possible surveillance footage from businesses in the area that could help identify the robbers or detail how they left the scene.
A visiting pastor was at the church on Sunday when the members were robbed, Floore said. The chief didn't know how many people were robbed or everything that was taken.
All three of the men had guns, and all wore bandanas over their faces. Floore said he didn't have a good description of them. More
Two Jehovah's Witnesses 'murdered 13 people on mission from God to cleanse world of sinners'
Two twisted Jehovah's Witnesses have been arrested as suspected serial killers, accused of murdering 13 people during a nine-month killing spree in Russia.
Claiming to be on a mission from God, Vladimir Gurianov, 44, and Elvira Egorycheva 46, hacked, shot and bludgeoned their victims in a case that left even hardened Russian detectives shocked.
The pair were finally spotted in a supermarket in a suburb of the city and arrested. By then they were on nationwide search lists and their photographs had been widely circulated in the region.
When they were searched Egorycheva had a revolver, two axes, an electric-shock device and a rope in her belongings. Another gun and a knife were found in Gurianov's jacket.
Gurianov - who locals said had 'mad eyes' - and Egorycheva first met at a Jehovah's Witnesses sect meeting 16 years ago. More
Card payments blocked, cash only in Vatican City
Italy’s central bank has blocked all bank card payments in the Vatican because of a failure to comply with EU safeguards against money laundering, forcing people to pay for services in cash until further notice, Italian media said on Thursday.
It’s “cash only” now for tourists at the Vatican wanting to pay for museum tickets, souvenirs and other services after Italy’s central bank decided to block electronic payments, including credit cards, at the tiny city-state.
Deutsche Bank Italia, which for some 15 years had provided the Vatican with electronic payment services, said Thursday that the Bank of Italy had pulled its authorization after Dec. 31.
The Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that the Italian central bank took the action because the Holy See has not yet fully complied with European Union safeguards against money laundering. That means Italian banks are not authorized to operate within the Vatican, which is in the process of improving its mechanisms to combat laundering. More
Ohio Pastor Puts Stripper Pole Next to Pulpit to Talk Sex
With a bed and a stripper pole placed next to his pulpit, a pastor in Ohio is all set to begin a series of sermons on sex and relationships beginning Sunday.
Ready to start a new sermon series called "Battle of the Sexes," Pastor Mike Scruggs at the Light of Word Ministries in White Oak, Ohio, has put a stripper pole, video games and sports equipment on one side of the pulpit, representing what men desire.
On the other side, he has set up a bed with candies, teddy bears, roses and a bottle of wine to depict what women want.
On all Sundays in April, Scruggs will share about best practices in bedroom, keeping intimacy alive and the need to build and maintain trust. "Right now we're having single people having too much sex and married people not having enough sex," he explained. More
Jehovah’s Witness Elder in court for rape
Lawyer to a Jehovah’s Witness Elder who is accused of raping a fellow congregant has wondered why father of the accused reported the matter to police when his church was capable of sorting out such matters.
Before Lusaka magistrate, Willie Banda, was Dennis Bwale, an elder at the Jehovah’s Witness of Kanyama Congregation.
Bwale, 28, of Kanyama Site and Service, appeared in a case where he is accused of raping Melani Mufweba, a congregant of the same church, contrary to Section 132 of the Penal Code amendment Act number 2 of 2011.
Particulars of the offence are that Bwale, on July 12 this year, did have carnal knowledge of Melani Mufweba without her consent.
When the matter came up for continued trial today, father of the complainant, Kennedy Mufweba, told the court that he came to learn of what had happened to his daughter a month after the incident.
Mr Mufwebu said sometime in September, this year Melani and her mother went to the Kingdom Hall but upon return Melani rushed in the house and left her Bible and other books that she had with her.
He told the court that it was at this point that the elders told him that his child had reported to the church that he was raped by Dennis Bwale, one of the church elders. More
When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite
A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.
Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven. More
Russia’s Anti-Mormon Campaign
Yekaterina Steniakina is one of Russia’s young politicians, the leader of the influential pro-Kremlin movement called the Youth Guards. She has dyed blonde hair and a forceful voice, and she’s determined to change many things about the present state of her country—starting with the Mormons.
Steniakina is leading the charge to change Russia’s legislation and ban Mormon missionaries from the nation. Though the number of Mormons living inside the country is small—around 400 foreign missionaries and 21,000 registered members at last count—they are a relatively visible presence in Russia’s larger cities. The missionaries hand out the Book of Mormon to those who might be interested, give free English lessons, and spend three hours a day cleaning public places or helping people around their homes.
Steniakina, who says the Latter-day Saints are a “totalitarian cult” sent by the FBI and the CIA “to fool and covert” unwitting Russians, is making her anti-Mormon campaign her top priority for the next political season. Specifically, she’s agitating to add language that would ban “the West [from converting] our citizens into non-traditional religions”—i.e. anything other than Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. More
B.C. man who botched son's home-circumcision guilty of criminal negligence
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court has ruled that a British Columbia man who tried to circumcise his 4-year-old son on the kitchen floor of his house is guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. The top court was asked to hear whether his attempt was allowed under freedom of religion provisions.
The botched surgery happened in April 2007. He used a carpet blade that he purchased at Home Depot earlier that day and sterilized. He didn't give his son any anesthetic, just four ounces of homemade honey wine. According to the Crown, the father lacked the medical skills to perform a circumcision. He tried to circumcise himself in 2005 using a Zhenxi ring, or circumcision ring. It wasn't successful and the father had to be rushed to a hospital.
The circumcision he performed on his son two years later wasn't successful either and there was significant bleeding, which the father stopped with the help of a veterinary blood-stopping agent and paper towels. "The result," according to court documents submitted by the Crown, was "the foreskin on D.J.'s penis stuck out like two arms. D.J. was not circumcised. He was disfigured." More
Singapore Pastor Allegedly Used Church Funds to Finance Wife’s Pop Music Career
Kong Hee, the founding pastor of Singapore’s largest church, was arrested this week on charges that he misused up to $18 million in church funds to finance his wife’s career as a pop singer.
An investigation by Singapore’s Commission on Charities alleged that Kong had misappropriated millions of dollars from the City Harvest Church’s charity fund, the Wall Street Journal reported. Four other church executives were arrested in connection with the crime. Kong’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun (whose pop name is Sun Ho) was not arrested, but has been removed from her executive position on the church’s board.
Wondering what $18 million will buy an aspiring pop star these days? Evidently, an album produced by Wyclef Jean, a no. 1 hit on the Billboard dance charts and a $20,000 a month Hollywood Hills mansion, according to the Straits Times. (By comparison, Grammy Award winner Alicia Keyes earned $10 million in 2011). More