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Religion News Report

January 8, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 307) - 3/3

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» Continued from Part 2

=== Noted
23. Attack Points to 'Lethal' Mix of Religion, Rebellion, Drugs
24. The Devil in The Nursery (McMartin)
25. U.S. Bashing : It's All the Rage in Europe
26. Backlash of faith shakes atheists
27. Man's views change radically (ex- Operation Rescue)

=== The Priest Around The Corner
28. Priest banned from naked calendar

=== Noted

23. Attack Points to 'Lethal' Mix of Religion, Rebellion, Drugs
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 7, 2001
http://www.latimes.com/Off-site Link

CASTRIES, St. Lucia--It was in a cave near the Soufriere volcano at the heart of this Caribbean island that Kim John says he first heard the voice of God.

It was Haile Selassie, the late Ethiopian emperor worshiped by Rastafarians worldwide, who spoke to him sometime last year, John told police inspectors last week. The voice anointed the 20-year-old as ''the chosen one'' and commanded him to free his people from bondage and destroy the ''system of Babylon,'' John said.

And so it was that, according to witnesses and investigators, John and at least one accomplice burst into the Roman Catholic cathedral--this island's icon of unity and culture for 101 years--just after dawn last Sunday.

Clad in flowing robes and armed with clubs, flaming torches and gasoline cans, the attackers charged up the aisle, randomly dousing and torching a dozen parishioners--a carpenter, a clerk, a retiree, a grandmother.

One attacker set fire to the priest and the altar. Another bludgeoned to death Sister Theresa Egan, an Irish nun who had worked on the island for 42 years, because ''he saw the devil'' in her pale blue eyes, police Inspector Gregory Montoute later explained.

The carnage left behind what Prime Minister Kenny Anthony called ''lacerations of the spirit that deeply scar the identity of our nation and a common cross that we all must bear.''

But the impact of the attack by self-proclaimed Rastafarians at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here goes far beyond St. Lucia's traditionally peaceful shores. It comes at a time when Rastafarians throughout the Caribbean are becoming a more vocal, visible and, some rival religious leaders say, potentially violent political and social force.

Bolstered by thousands of new believers from a rebellious younger generation plagued by poverty and joblessness on small island states, Rastafarians have begun to contest elections, protest policies that have discriminated against them for decades and lobby for decriminalizing marijuana, which adherents smoke as a religious sacrament.

As Anthony put it in an interview here Friday, the attack targeted just one major symbol of Babylon; it could easily have targeted the state.

''The question is, if the church is the first victim, who is the next?'' Anthony said. ''The Caribbean is going through a very, very, very difficult period. We are all troubled, troubled because we are witnessing the increasing marginalization of young males at an uncontrollable rate. We are troubled by rising poverty and crime. And we are troubled by an increasingly unfriendly global [economic] environment.''

Against that backdrop, he added, Rastafarianism is reinventing itself among disenfranchised youth. ''What is apparent is that there is an unholy alliance of this religious theology laced with this rebellion and to some extent complicated by the drugs. It is a real lethal combination. And what has happened here can find similar manifestations in each and every island of the Caribbean.''

St. Lucia's Rastafarian leaders condemned the church attack and disowned the two men in custody. Ras Wisely, chairman of the island's National Council of the Advancement of Rastafarians, read a televised statement expressing sympathy for the victims and castigating those responsible.

As last Sunday's attack resonates through the region, Rastafarian leaders worry that it may cause a backlash against their religion. Young adherents here have expressed fears of police crackdowns and further discrimination.

Non-Rastafarians privately have voiced their own fears that the violence on the last day of the second millennium was not, as police and commentators say, an apparently isolated attack by deranged individuals.

''We certainly have no evidence these guys were connected with a sect or a cult, or that there's someone out there planning something similar,'' said St. Lucia Police Supt. Albert Fregis. ''But certainly one cannot rule out the possibility that something like this can happen again.''

In an interview after the prime minister's speech, though, Joseph said: ''We've had a lot of wake-up calls already. All these calls, and we're still asleep.''

In fact, during the past several months, this once-serene island has seen a series of rapes, murders and robberies, a pattern repeated throughout the eastern Caribbean amid increased drug trafficking and unemployment. Those ills are largely the result of a banana industry that is dying, locals argue, after America successfully fought to eliminate preferential European trade tariffs that had supported it.

St. Lucia has lost half of its banana-export income in the past 10 years. Today, nearly a fifth of its work force is unemployed--in a country that had the highest birthrate in the Western Hemisphere 16 years ago, mostly attributed to teenage mothers.
Boycott America's Bananas The publisher of RNR and Apologetics Index is one of many Europeans who boycotts bananas grown and imported by American companies for precisely the reasons mentioned. Unbridled greed indirectly leads to human rights violations. Boycott America's Bananas

See: A Future for Caribbean Bananas : The Importance of Europe's Banana Market to the CaribbeanOff-site Link

24. The Devil in The Nursery
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 7, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link

When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. Maybe that is why it is easier for most of us to forget, rather than to try and explain, the Satanic-abuse scare that gripped this country in the early 80's -- the myth that Devil-worshipers had set up shop in our day-care centers, where their clever adepts were raping and sodomizing children, practicing ritual sacrifice, shedding their clothes, drinking blood and eating feces, all unnoticed by parents, neighbors and the authorities.

Of course, if you were one of the dozens of people prosecuted in these cases, one of those who spent years in jails and prisons on wildly implausible charges, one of those separated from your own children, forgetting would not be an option. You would spend the rest of your life wondering what hit you, what cleaved your life into the before and the after, the daylight and the nightmare.

And this would be your constant preoccupation even if you were eventually exonerated -- perhaps especially then. For if most people no longer believed in your diabolical guilt, why had they once believed in it, and so fervently?

Peggy McMartin Buckey, who died on Dec. 15, at 74, was surely still wondering.

Buckey's ordeal began in 1983, when the mother of a 2 1/2-year-old who attended the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, Calif., called the police to report that her son had been sodomized there. It didn't matter that the woman was eventually found to be a paranoid schizophrenic, and that the accusations she made -- of teachers who took children on airplane rides to Palm Springs and lured them into a labyrinth of underground tunnels where the accused ''flew in the air'' and others were ''all dressed up as witches'' -- defied logic.

''Believe the children'' was the sanctified slogan of the moment -- but what it came to mean, all too often, was believe them unless they say they were not abused. It didn't matter that no trace of the secret tunnels was ever found, that no physical evidence corroborated the charges (a black robe seized by the police as a Satanic get-up turned out to be Peggy's graduation gown), that none of the kiddie porn the abusers were supposedly manufacturing ever turned up, despite an extensive investigation by the F.B.I. and Interpol, that no parents who stopped by during the day had ever noticed, say, the killing of a horse. It didn't matter that most child abuse -- which after all does exist in real and horrifying form -- takes place not in day-care centers but in the home, indeed within the family. The prosecution charged forward nonetheless, with a seven-year trial that became the longest and, at a cost of $15 million, the most expensive criminal trial in American history. It resulted in not a single conviction, though seven people were charged in the McMartin case, on a total of 135 counts -- just a series of deadlocks, acquittals and mistrials. Buckey served two years in jail, and her son, Raymond, served five. They spent their life's savings on lawyers' fees and in the end went ''through hell'' and ''lost everything,'' as she put it after her 1990 acquittal.

Yet even now, the legacy of McMartin and other cases like it (Wee Care in Maplewood, N.J.; Little Rascals in Edenton, N.C.; Fells Acres in Malden, Mass.) is with us. It's with us -- this is the sad part -- in policies that discourage day-care workers and teachers from hugging children or from changing diapers without a witness, lest they be accused of something untoward. It is also with us -- this is the good part -- in improved methods of questioning young witnesses.

25. U.S. Bashing : It's All the Rage in Europe
Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2001 (Opinion)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26468-2001Jan6.htmlOff-site Link

It is hardly a secret that Europeans, along with many other inhabitants of the planet, had a prolonged laugh at America's expense during the aftermath of last year's presidential election. In Europe, those sniggers appear to be part of something that is at once more serious and more sustained: a new form of post-Cold War anti-Americanism that reflects mounting unease with the American capitalist model and its cultural outgrowths.

This phenomenon was already beginning to make itself felt well before the election, over three issues in particular: the death penalty, global warming and national missile defense. For several months, all have generated increasingly bitter headlines against U.S. policies, and all have triggered protest movements in France, Britain, Holland and elsewhere that seem likely to grow in the future.

Here in the United States, none of these issues figured greatly in the election campaign. Nor did the gun culture, another intensively reported aspect of modern America that mystifies and disturbs many beyond its shores. These are issues, however, that many Europeans readily associate with this country, a fact that poses a special challenge for the new president.

The mood against capital punishment is especially strong in France and Italy. The U.S. ambassador to France, Felix Rohatyn, has pointed out that the issue is harming America's standing there. Even in Britain, where public opinion traditionally favors the death penalty, America's ready use of capital punishment has caused widespread anger.

America has become the villain on the issue of global warming, too. Throughout much of Europe, the collapse of November's conference in The Hague on climate change was blamed on the Americans. Rightly or wrongly -- and as an Englishman who has lived in America since 1997, I accept that we Europeans can sometimes seem very pious -- most Europeans believe that while they grapple with sustainability amid limited resources, Americans are simply burning fuel like there is no tomorrow.

National missile defense has provided a third rallying point. Not since the United States deployed short-range cruise missiles in western Europe during the mid-1980s has an arms issue so galvanized European opposition, ranging governments as well as protesters against America's efforts to turn itself into what Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, acutely describes as a ''national gated community.''

The European mood of exasperation with the United States was building through much of the past year, but the election energized it still further, producing an astonishingly contemptuous press response across Europe.

Americans, as well as those of us Europeans who work here, are going to have to get used to this kind of disdain.

From the days of John Winthrop, Americans have liked to imagine their nation as a model for the rest of the world.

But the city upon the hill is not standing the test of new times. Increasingly, Europeans sense that they exist across a cultural and political gulf from Model America. In what is increasingly a single world, the two continents are drifting farther apart.

Anti-Americanism may seem like a term with an anachronistic ring to it. Unless you live in Baghdad or Havana, there hasn't been much of it around for a good few years.

That old form of anti-Americanism has largely gone with the wind.

The new anti-Americanism is less focused on external acts of the American state; it is more likely to be triggered by internal things such as the American love affair with the automobile, the cult of the gun or the uncritical assumption that American is always best. In some respects, today's critics are taking issue with the American way of life itself.

In the post-communist world order, in which the United States sees itself as the necessary nation, Americans should not be surprised at such a shift. But Americans should not be indifferent to a growing sense in Europe and elsewhere that there sometimes appears to be one law for privileged America and another law for other countries.

That feeling seems to me to be the common factor in European responses to issues such as global warming and national missile defense. A lot of Europeans simply believe that Americans are too self-absorbed to either know what is happening or to care how the rest of the world sees them. My own e-mail postbag from those who read my coverage of the United States on both sides of the Atlantic certainly bears this out.

Another example lies in the inevitable fate under the new administration of the treaty setting up the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the Clinton administration signed in the last hours of the last day of 2000. The treaty is not legally binding without Senate approval, which is unlikely to be forthcoming because of objections from Republicans.

The outright Republican refusal to participate in the new court -- a position that would place the United States alongside such human rights paragons as Iran, Iraq and Libya, which in other circumstances are dismissed as threats to global stability and order -- sends a barely credible message to post-communist Europe.

Underlying this refusal seems to be an American belief that human rights abuses are committed only by other nationals, not by Americans and not by the uncriticizable American military.

There is surely a disjunction here. Universal modern American values supposedly reign supreme alongside American entrepreneurial dynamism. Yet while the rest of the world is struggling to make itself answerable to global legal standards, America is increasingly determined to stand aloof. It's a message that says the United States is happy with double standards.

Most Americans have barely considered these problems, and many will be inclined to dismiss them. That could be a costly mistake. For Bush's mere arrival in the White House is likely to be the best recruiting sergeant that the new anti-Americanism could have hoped for.

Martin Kettle is Washington bureau chief for Britain's Guardian newspaper.
* Europeans have other issues with America as well, including it's strong-arm trade tactics, its support for destructive cults and businesses masquerading under the guise of religion, its double standards with regard to human rights violations (blaming everyone in sight, without holding itself accountable), and its double standards with regard to trade (e.g. continuing its boycott against Cuba, thus contributing to that country's poverty, while going after the huge Chinese market).

26. Backlash of faith shakes atheists
The Observer (England), Jan. 7, 2001
http://observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,418793,00.htmlOff-site Link

Russia's beleaguered atheists have formed a new society to campaign against the growing power of the Church in government and what they perceive as the 'threatening clericalisation' of society.

After 70 years of protection and promotion by the Soviet regime, atheism has become deeply unfashionable over the past decade amid a surge of enthusiasm for the Russian Orthodox faith.

This rediscovered public affection for religion is reflected in newly adopted lyrics to Russia's revived anthem, which describe the nation as a 'holy country' that is 'protected by God'. Atheists now see themselves as a repressed minority whose rights need to be protected.

City authorities recently refused to register the Moscow Society of Atheists as a legitimate body.

The group insists it is not motivated by a Marxist belief that religion is the opiate of the people or by a Bolshevik equation of religion with backwardness, but by concern at the unconstitutional privileges being handed to the Orthodox Church - discriminating also against other faiths. Russia's constitution provides for the equality of all religions before the law and the separation of Church and State; activists claim these statutes are being abused.

A founder of the organisation, Lev Levinson, called for action to stem the creeping incursion of the Orthodox Church into public institutions and to curb the growing number of religious bodies funded by the taxpayer. 'We are witnessing a wholesale attack on the secular state, with religious indoctrination appearing in every key sphere of life,' he said.

The organisation is dismayed that several regional governments have introduced instruction in the Orthodox faith in state secondary schools as part of the main curriculum, contravening the law on education.

Polls suggest 55 per cent of the population are Orthodox believers, about 3 per cent being regular church attenders, while 40 per cent are indifferent to religion or do not believe. About 5 per cent remain committed atheists.

Geraldine Fagan, Moscow representative of the Keston Institute, which monitors religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, said the atheists' campaign reflected widespread concerns about the power accumulated by the Orthodox Church.

27. Man's views change radically
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 6, 2001
http://www.sptimes.com/Off-site Link

ST. PETERSBURG -- Writing in a recently published book, a former insider of the anti-abortion movement says that some respected conservative Christians have tacitly condoned the violence practiced by radicals during the past decade.

Jerry Reiter makes his claims in Live From the Gates of Hell, An Insider's Look at the Anti-Abortion Underground. He worked as a media coordinator for Operation Rescue. But, disillusioned, he later infiltrated militant anti-abortion groups as an FBI informer.

He writes, ''One of the things that surprised me about the Christian Coalition was that even though it publicly denounced the illegal tactics of groups like Operation Rescue, when the big national anti-abortion protest came to Buffalo in 1992, Operation Rescue National housed its secret command and communication offices in the basement suite of offices that the Christian Coalition of New York had as its state headquarters.''

He adds, ''Soon after I entered the secret command post of Operation Rescue, I was given books on dozens of not-so-peaceful activities, including a book by Rev. Michael Bray advocating the bombing of abortion clinics.''

Repeated calls to the Christian Coalition's national headquarters were not returned.

He has been changed by his experience.

''What changed me first off was seeing people who use the Bible to justify all kinds of evil,'' said Reiter, who now calls himself a humanist and attends a Unitarian Universalist Church.

Today Reiter works as the communication director for the Council for Secular Humanism.

=== The Priest Around The Corner

28. Priest banned from naked calendar
BBC, Jan. 7, 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link

[...more offbeat news...]
A calendar featuring a naked priest has been shelved at the request of the Bishop of Galway, who branded the stunt ''inappropriate''.

Father Olan Rynn, 27, was pictured wearing only his clerical collar and covering his modesty with a bible for the calendar, to raise money for cancer and cerebral palsy research.

Although Fr Rynn spoke to his bishop before posing, Dr James McLoughlin said he was ''surprised and dismayed'' when he later discovered the curate would disrobe for the occasion.

The bishop said in a statement: ''I did not appreciate the type of calendar which was envisaged and, thinking it to be a straightforward fund-raising project, I gave Fr Rynn permission to participate in this venture.

The calendar also features former Galway hurlers, singers and other celebrities in similarly semi-nude poses.

Fr Rynn, said to be one of the most attractive of the models who took part, posed sitting in a leather chair with his legs crossed.

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