OakGrove Archives
Past News and Issues
1st Quarter 2001

3/25/01:  'In God We Trust' to be displayed in Mississippi schools
EMILY WAGSTER, Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. - A bill mandating Mississippi's public schools to display "In God We Trust" in classrooms, auditoriums and cafeterias was signed into law Friday by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
"Our nation was founded as a godly nation and we put it on our money, 'In God We Trust,'" said Musgrove, who signed the bill despite the threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU maintains that requiring a reference to God in public classrooms violates the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state.

Seahenge could disintegrate if returned to the sands
Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
A LEADING British archaeologist warned yesterday that the Bronze Age timber circle known as Seahenge could disintegrate if it is reburied as planned  by English Heritage.
Martin Jones, professor of archaeological science at the University of Cambridge, said he feared that returning the timbers to a salty environment could damage them. He said: "It would be like putting them into an oven; it would dry them out."
Bacterial activity in the wood, as well as currents and sediments, could also harm the timbers. His warning came as conservators, pagan religious leaders and local people debated what to do with the prehistoric remains that survived 4,000 years in the sands off Norfolk.

Democrats vow to fight voucher plan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives will introduce President George Bush's education reform plan Thursday, setting the stage for a battle with Democrats over private school vouchers.
As proposed by Bush, the bill by House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, would give state and local school officials new leeway in setting classroom policy while holding them accountable for results.
The education bill would also require annual student testing in reading and mathematics, and would dedicate $5 billion during the next five years to help all children learn to read by the end of the third  grade -- signature issues for Bush during the presidential campaign.
Despite opposition from Democrats, Boehner's bill will include Bush's voucher initiative, which would help parents of students in troubled public schools send their children to religious and other private institutions.
House Democrats assert that the voucher plan would siphon money from the cash-strapped public school system, and have vowed to fight it.

Arkansas considers banning evolution from textbooks
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) -- A committee of the Arkansas legislature has recommended banning the theory of evolution from textbooks in the latest challenge by state officials to the scientific view of how life develops.
A committee of the state House approved the legislation and forwarded it to the full House, 20 years after the state legislature passed a similar bill later struck down in federal courts as unconstitutional.
The measure advanced despite a warning from the American Civil Liberties Union that it could violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

Taliban Bans New Year's Celebration
KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (news - web sites) (AP) - Amina's multicolored plastic sandals gleamed against her dirt-caked feet.
They were new - ``special for New Year's,'' she said outside the blue-domed shrine of Hazrat Ali, where the New Year festival is celebrated each year by Afghanistan's Shiite Muslims.
But not this year.
Wednesday's New Year celebration has gone the way of the country's ancient Buddha statues - vanquished by the ruling Taliban, who say it is contrary to Islam.
A largely Shiite Muslim festival that came to Afghanistan from neighboring Iran, New Year was decreed a pagan celebration by the Taliban, who said it was taken from Zoroastrianism, which flourished in pre-Islamic Iran.
``We are an Islamic country and do not celebrate New Year's,'' the Taliban's Radio Shariat said in announcing the ban.

3/19/01:  (From the "Don't try this at home" Department)
Testing the Magic: Ghanaian Shot Dead as Bulletproof Magic Fails
ACCRA, Ghana, March 16 — A Ghanaian man was shot dead by a fellow villager while testing a magic spell designed to make him bulletproof, the official Ghana News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Aleobiga Aberima, 23, and around 15 other men from Lambu village, northeast Ghana, had asked a jujuman, or witchdoctor, to make them invincible to bullets.
After smearing his body with a concoction of herbs every day for two weeks, Aberima volunteered to be shot to check the spell had worked.
One of the others fetched a rifle and shot Aberima who died instantly from a single bullet. http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/ghana010316_magic.html

Lycos mistakenly shuts down some Web sites
Associated Press
WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) Web portal Lycos said Monday that it mistakenly shut down an unknown number of Web sites through its Tripod Web hosting service over the weekend while cutting off customers who violated their service agreement.
Lycos spokeswoman Dorianne Almann said the company regularly shuts down sites for prohibited member conduct, including threats to minors, stalking, and racially or ethnically offensive material. She said a number of sites that did not violate the agreement were also mistakenly shut down, but would be restored within 24 to 48 hours.

Ambitious project aims to 'Save the Mothers'
Michele Dula Baum - CNN
(CNN) -- Looking at a modern hospital birthing suite with homey furniture and state-of-the-art equipment hidden tastefully behind rich cherry wood accents, it's hard to imagine that in some parts of the world, expectant mothers often still face death -- miles from any doctor -- in the very act of giving life.
Sometimes pregnancy complications are insurmountable, but more often, lives could be saved with the timely intervention of a trained professional, explained San Francisco, California obstetrician Anne Foster-Rosales, United States technical advisor for the Save the Mothers project in Central America.

Man admits Internet offer for killing of abortionist
In a case described as the first in the nation, a South Jersey man pleaded guilty Friday to using the Internet to offer a $1.5 million bounty to anyone who killed an abortion provider.
Nicholas Morency, 30, of Cape May County, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Camden to making criminal threats against individuals who provide reproductive services, admitting that he had posted the reward notice on a Web site he created in February 1999.

3/14/01:  Taliban spurn Islamic scholars on statues
KABUL, Tuesday (Reuters) -Afghanistan's Taliban rulers rejected the arguments of leading Islamic scholars and protests from around the world and said they were obliterating the last traces of the country's ancient Buddhist statues.
A delegation from the 55-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) flew out of the southern Afghan town of Kandahar after two days of talks with the Taliban failed to produce any result, a Pakistan-based Afghan news service said.

Lawmakers Seek to Help Pharmacists Who Won't Give Out Certain Drugs
Lawmakers in four states are pushing bills that would provide job protection to pharmacists who refuse to dispense legal drugs, such as the morning-after pill, on moral grounds.
The bills, being proposed in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky, are versions of a 1998 South Dakota law that lets pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions if it conflicts with their beliefs.

Ghost hunters cited in trespass
Police say group of 12, from teens to 42-year-old, entered Buck Hill Inn looking for spirits.
WILLIAM J. FORD - The Morning Call
Lights. Camera. Citation.
Twelve people throughout the Lehigh Valley area, inspired by the MTV program "Fear," got to give their autographs to Barrett Township Police Chief Steve Williams when he charged them with trespassing at the vacant Buck Hill Inn on Saturday night.

O.C. School District to Crack Down on Bullies
Violence: Infractions will come under zero-tolerance policy, possibly leading to transfers. Parents sought action after boy was choked.
An Orange County school board tonight is expected to give final approval to a policy that would punish campus bullying as harshly as bringing a knife or a bottle of vodka to school--a policy which might be the first of its kind in the country.
The rule would add bullying to the list of offenses covered under the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's zero-tolerance policy.
Students caught bullying could be transferred to other district campuses and referred to counseling.

3/10/01:  Teasing and taunting led girl to end her life
Pressures that prompted mass shootings also spur quiet suicides
George Hunter - The Detroit News
LINCOLN PARK -- Twelve-year-old Tempest Smith sat alone in her bedroom one chilly morning late last month and gazed into the mirror. Shortly before her classes were to start at Lincoln Park Middle School, she kissed her reflection goodbye.
   The lipstick smudges still adorn Tempest's mirror, sad reminders of the day the tall, troubled girl slipped a leopard-print scarf around her neck and hanged herself from her bunk bed.
Although Tempest had a few friends, many of her classmates had teased her constantly since elementary school. They teased her because she wore dark "Gothic" clothing to school. They teased her because she read books about Wicca, a pagan religion often associated with witchcraft. Her classmates often taunted her with Christian hymns.

Reverence for earth brings followers to paganism
Steve Maynard - Tacoma News Tribune
In a dark, incense-filled room, 17 people created a sacred circle by lighting candles and calling on the power of nature and the divine.
"Hail, guardian of the watchtower of the west, power of the water," one man said.
Forming the circle around the elements of nature is a central ritual for a pagan group in Tacoma, Wash., called the Earth Centered Spirituality Group.
The group is pagan because most of its members follow pre-Christian or pagan teachings.  These include belief in the female expression of divinity called the Goddess. Some in the group also say they are witches. They direct healing energy through spells and other forms of magic, but do not believe in Satan.

3/7/01:  Spellbound
Teacher Magazine - Brandi Blackbear was not part of the status quo at Union Intermediate High. Although baptized as a Catholic, she didn't go to church, and she was intrigued by Wicca. An increasingly popular nature-based religion, Wicca takes its name from the Old English word for wizard. Followers call themselves Wiccans or Witches (as opposed to the more generic "witches"), and they practice a form of magic. When Brandi was in 8th grade, she and her friend Justin found a book on religion in the school library with a section on Wicca, and out of curiosity, they read up on the subject.
Two years later, Brandi claims she is the victim of a modern-day witch hunt, one that raises the issue—now debated nationwide—of how far a school should go to protect its students and teachers from possible harm.

High court allows KKK to adopt a highway
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday allowed the Ku Klux Klan to participate in a Missouri "adopt-a-highway" program in which  volunteers pick up roadside trash and in return receive a sign recognizing their efforts.
Monday's action was not a decision on the merits of the case.
The court turned down without comment an appeal by Missouri that argued the state should be allowed to prohibit the Klan from participating in the program because the organization does not accept blacks and other minorities as members.

3/1/01:  Taliban Begins Smashing All Afghan Statues
Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s radical Islamic rulers began smashing all statues from the nation's rich cultural past Thursday, defying international appeals to save the irreplaceable ancient works of art.
Mullah Qudratullah Jamal, information and culture minister for the ruling Taliban, said centers where the campaign had been unleashed included Bamiyan province -- site of two soaring statues of the Buddha hewn from a solid cliff more than 1,500 years ago. They are the most famous relics of Afghanistan's history.
The campaign of destruction drew international condemnation, with a U.N. official calling it cultural ''vandalism.''

Tenn. unfurls its own state flag squabble
TOM HUMPHREY - Scripps Howard News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - At the urging of a Methodist youth group, a state legislator has proposed to make the words "In God We Trust" part of the Tennessee state flag.
At the urging of an atheist activist, however, the same legislator, Rep. John Mark Windle, postponed a scheduled subcommittee vote on the bill so critics of the measure can speak against it.

Bible passages on homework lead to lawsuit
T. KEUNG HUI - Raleigh News & Observer
RALEIGH, N.C. - Biblical passages sent to school with a child's homework that school employees found threatening are at the heart of a legal dispute between a Raleigh minister and a county school system.
The Rev. Charles Anthony Collins, 40, filed a lawsuit last month demanding $1.5 million from Wake County schools and the Wake Sheriff's Office over what he is calling a violation of his constitutional rights to religious expression. The school system had told Collins to stop writing the religious passages in his son's assignments and restricted his access to the school, leading to an arrest on a trespassing charge that was later dismissed.

2/28/01:  Religious groups wary of Bush’s charitable-choice plan
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Bush's plan to allow churches, synagogues and other religious bodies to compete for government money is drawing quiet objections from religious groups that are among the biggest providers of social services.
While not opposing Bush's initiative outright, Lutheran, Catholic and Jewish groups are raising concerns about potential religious discrimination and coercion, echoing arguments from civil libertarian quarters.

2/26/01: AREN addresses Bush administration
Join Alternative Religions Educational Network in signing their letter to President George W. Bush:
"Dear President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Honored Government Officials,
We are a coalition of concerned citizens of faith. We come from many different faith groups including Wicca, Neo-Paganism and earth religious traditions. We have watched the recent events in our country with great interest. These events will undoubtedly have profound effects on our communities in the future..."
To view the rest of the letter and add your signature, go to http://aren.org/

Darwin vindicated!
Cracking of human genome confirms theory of evolution
Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. -  SPECIAL TO MSNBC
The media flubbed the headline for the biggest news event in the past 50 years of science. The reporters and TV talking heads who crammed the Washington, D.C., press conference on Feb. 12 did understand that the details they were hearing about the human
               genome offered the story of a lifetime. But, they missed the real headline. Their stories should have simply said, “Darwin vindicated!”

School Officials Pull Barbie Racism Experiment
BOULDER, Colo. — School officials are reviewing a decision to ban a third-grader's science fair project which suggested students preferred a white Barbie doll over a black Barbie.
The Mesa Elementary School student's father, David Thielen, said his 8-year-old daughter was told the school's science fair was not the best forum for considering racial issues.
Now the school board has asked Superintendent George Garcia to look at the school's reaction to the girl's project and examine overall science fair policy.

2/18/01:  Bay Staters use vanity license plates to show religious devotion
BOSTON (AP) — The most visible expression of Allen Malloy’s devotion to the mother of Jesus can be found on his Mercury Marquis, which is light blue, a color associated with Mary’s mantle.
The retired Boston policeman’s license plate is VRMARY.
From ADONAI (Hebrew for God) to ZEN (a Japanese school of Buddhism), scores of Massachusetts drivers are adorning their cars with testimonials of faith. The plates span the spectrum of belief, from JCSAVZ to DRUID, HINDU, ISLAM and WITCH, and they offer a variety of religious exhortations and exclamations, including BLEAVE, BLESSU, DOPRAY and GLORYB.

Terror Islands
A journey to the former paradise that now lies at the violent center of Indonesia’s Muslim-Christian conflicts
Until recently Thomas Pury, 45, grew nutmeg and cloves on his four-acre farm on a
               remote island in the Moluccas, once called the Spice Islands. Like their parents before them, Thomas and his wife were Roman Catholics; so was virtually their entire village of 100 on the  island of Kesui.
THEY HAD LIVED IN PEACE with Muslim neighbors for years, but all that changed in late November, when a group of Muslims from two nearby islands came to Kesui dressed in white and carrying swords. They demanded that the Catholics convert to Islam—or else risk an attack on their villages.

Secret Service accused of threatening free speech
NEW YORK (AP) Thou shalt not mock President Bush in a school newspaper?
The Secret Service has been accused of trying to enforce that commandment and of trashing the First Amendment after college student Glenn Given wrote a satirical editorial in the form of an open letter to Bush's favorite philosopher: Jesus.
The piece published last week in the Stony Brook Press at the State University of New York campus in Stony Brook, N.Y., was titled ''Editorial: Dear Jesus Christ, King of all Kings, All I ask is that you smite George W. Bush.'' Given, the paper's managing editor, asked Jesus to strike down Bush, his cabinet and MTV's Carson Daly.

Documentary examines Boy Scouts controversy
Joe Leydon - Reuters
PARK CITY, Utah (Variety) - Co-winner of the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the 2001 Sundance Festival, ''Scout's Honor'' is an artless yet earnest study of the ongoing protests by gay and straight activists against the exclusionary, anti-homosexual policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

Giuliani angered by nude female Jesus exhibit
NEW YORK (AP) -- A photography exhibit that includes a work depicting Jesus as a naked woman is stirring debate at the same museum where a dung-decorated painting of the Virgin Mary sparked a heated six-month legal battle.
The work "Yo Mama's Last Supper" features the photographer, Renee Cox, nude and surrounded by 12 black apostles. It is part of an exhibit of 94 contemporary black photographers opening Friday at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

United Way of Central Massachusetts adopts new funding policy
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) The United Way of Central  Massachusetts has voted to withhold funding to agencies,  such as the Boy Scouts, that discriminate on the basis of  sexual orientation.
''We are aware that our more than 30,000 contributors hold a wide range of views regarding nondiscrimination policies and practices,'' said Eric S. Buch, president of the regional United Way, after Wednesday's vote.

Evolution Theory Reborn for Kansas Schools
Carey Gillam
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Reuters) - Kansas educators reinstated the theory of evolution in state curriculum on Wednesday, reversing a controversial decision 18 months ago and thwarting religious conservatives who want students to learn the Biblical theory of creation.
In a 7-3 vote, the Kansas Board of Education cast aside the testing standards for state schools that were put in place in August of 1999. Those standards eliminated several evolution-related topics while making room for other theories, including that God created man.

2/13/01:  Marshals Seize Indiana Church
REX W. HUPPKE / Associated Press Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A church that challenged the authority of the IRS was seized by the government Tuesday to satisfy a $6 million tax debt, with federal marshals wheeling the former pastor out on a gurney as he prayed in protest.
" I pray for you that God will forgive you!" shouted the Rev. Greg J. Dixon, pastor emeritus of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple. " Welcome to communism, America!"
It is believed to be the first time the federal government has ever seized a church in a tax dispute.

Church cuts ties with Scout troop
Eagle Scout Geoffrey Sawtell, 17, stood before a full church and several TV cameras Sunday in a tan shirt familiar to at least four generations of youngsters.
Arrayed on Sawtell's chest and arms were the rewards of a lifetime spent in scouting, including the Eagle medal and the God and Country award.
But the most controversial emblem of all was the simplest -- the patch for Troop 89, which was being disavowed at a specially written "separation ceremony'' at Washington Park United Church of Christ.

What Makes a Religion Bad?
Defining Danger in Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements
One of the biggest hot-button issues in the theological world today is the danger posed by some religions, both to the members of the group and to outsiders and innocent victims.  Most of the time the word 'cult' is used to define groups which may be unusual and somewhat controlling, but pose no major threat to their members or other people.  A few of the groups labeled cults have crossed the line from strange to harmful.  Objectively, most groups are labeled cults for one of two reasons: their theology or their practices.

2/11/01:  Straight Shooters
The White Rose Banquet brings together members of the Army of God, who proudly celebrate their commitment to violence in defense of the unborn
John Yewell
Straight Shooters Donald Spitz wouldn't win any awards for elocution. But as head of Pro-Life Virginia and a longtime supporter of hard-core anti-abortion fanatics, Spitz believes that violence in defense of the pre-born -- including the murder of abortion clinic doctors -- is not only justifiable, but cannot be condemned. He has stepped up to the podium to present an award to the man who has been called "the father of violence," the man who has organized this event, the Rev. Michael Bray.

Children should stay away from Harry Potter according to a Catholic priest in Wroclaw. The Polish priest condemned the bestselling children books by British author J.K. Rowling for spreading pagan ideas, and urged Catholics in Poland not to premit their children from reading them. Harry Potter  books "spread pagan ideas and should not be read by children," he told worshippers at the southwestern Polish city's Saint-Augustin church during Sunday Mass, according a newspaper report in Gazeta Wyborcza.

Bill seeks Bible-based high school class
ACLU says plan would proselytize
Ed Anderson - Capital bureau/The Times-Picayune
BATON ROUGE -- High school students could choose to study history and literature through a course on the Bible under a bill filed for debate at the March 26 general legislative session.
House Bill 77, by Rep. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, says the course would be offered only in areas where local school boards "choose to offer such instruction." Nevers said a standardized Bible course curriculum to be developed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would "stress the influences of the Bible on history, literature, politics, culture and the arts."

Utah Atheists recruiting medley of prayer-givers
Elaine Jarvik - Deseret News staff writer
How about Druids, Chris Allen suggests. Or maybe the Ku Klux Klan, or the satanists? These are some of the folks Allen is recruiting to offer prayers at Salt Lake County Council meetings.
The County Council last month voted to begin every meeting with a moment of prayer, and that has Allen and fellow members of Utah Atheists coming up with a litany of possible supplicants. "We want to recruit people from the New Age group, people with tarot cards, psychics, crystal healers. We need to get Native Americans who are involved in the peyote cult," Allen told members of Utah Atheists at their monthly meeting. "I feel pretty confident the Pagan Student Association at the U. would get involved."
Faced with so many unconventional prayers and prayer givers, Utah Atheists hope, the CountyCouncil will soon realize that it's just too uncomfortable to begin its meetings appealing to a higher power.

2/6/01:  The Blessed Bee Pagan Scholarship - Updated webpages and the application form for the 2001-2002 school year are now online.
The Blessed Bee is an internet Pagan store which sponsors a scholarship open to students following a Pagan spiritual path who are continuing their education beyond high school.  It is also open to currently enrolled students in associate,  baccalaureate or trade school programs. The criteria for awarding the scholarship is based on a combination of spiritual growth, scholarship, need, and community service --with no particular percentage attached to any of the categories.
Students applying for The Blessed Bee Pagan Scholarship should be following some type of Pagan/Neo-Pagan spiritual path, such as (but not exclusively), Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidism, Asatruar, Shamanism, Native American Spirituality, Stregheria, Voodoun, Santeria, etc.  It is open to students belonging to a group, coven, clan etc., as well as those whose spiritual path is a solitary one.
Additional information can be found at:  http://www.theblessedbee.com/scholarship.html

2/5/01:  School ties to religion reviewed by judge
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge is considering whether a privately run religious education program is too closely entangled with a Marion County school district.
Once a week, about 1,300 of the Perry Township school district’s 1,800 fourth- and fifth-graders are excused from class for 30 minutes of religious education.
Students from four elementary schools walk to a nearby church to attend the religious education class. But with no churches near the other five elementary schools, students attend classes in two trailers that are hauled from school to school and parked on school property.

1/15/01:  Moore booster pushes for Ten Commandments constitutional amendment
PHILLIP RAWLS - The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The man who raised money nationwide to elect Alabama's Ten Commandment's judge set a new goal Monday: passing a constitutional amendment to allow the commandments to be displayed in public buildings across the state.
"The grassroots, conservative people will stand up and do what it takes to acknowledge God," said Dean Young, executive director of the Christian Family Association.

New chief justice won't say where Ten Commandments going
PHILLIP RAWLS - The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, became chief justice Monday with a pledge to restore the moral foundation of the law, but he assumed his duties without his famous Ten Commandments plaque on display.
Moore would not say how he plans to keep his campaign promise to display his handmade plaque at the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore said the plaque was packed with his office furnishings from Gadsden and would be unveiled "in due time." But he reiterated, "God's law will be publicly acknowledged in our court."

More Harry Potter lore here in March
Relief is in sight for Harry Potter fans. Two new books--Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages--will be in bookstores March 12.
Both previously announced titles had been expected as a stopgap to quench fans' thirst for more things Potter, as they await book 5 in the hugely popular series of children's stories.
"We know these books will give Harry Potter fans, young and old, something interesting to read between now and the release of the next segment of the tale," said Alan Cohen, director of trade marketing for Scholastic Books, Potter author J.K. Rowling's U.S. distributor.
The books will offer insights into the world of Rowling's beloved wizard-in-training, with proceeds going to charity. Both have been mentioned in the previous Potter stories. They appear as titles of textbooks at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry is a student. "Kids will like the fact that these books will be `extra lore' in the Potter saga," said Linda Bubon, co-owner and children's book buyer at Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark. "They love all the details of Harry's world, and this feeds right into that."
Unlike the four massive Harry Potter volumes, each of the new paperback books, which will sell for $3.99 apiece, will be only about 60 pages long. Each will feature drawings by Rowling.

1/14/01:  The days are getting noticably longer since the Winter Solstice, making this a good time to think about the coming Spring. With that in mind, I'm taking a little time to rake up some of the fallen leaves to mulch the new plantings that I've set out in the past few days: If it's been a while since you've meandered down the various paths, take a look at the new links in the Armchair Activism, Religious Rights and Legal aid, and Festivals and Gatherings pages, and two new stories in the Pagan Parenting section. Keep checking back too, because in addition to the latest news updates, I'll also be adding new items to the Cool Links and Pagan Humor pages, as well as more Parenting links. It's going to be a good year, so stay tuned!
And now for the news:

How Restorers 'Improved' Stonehenge
Restoration work on Stonehenge has caused English Heritage to consider rewriting its guides to Britain’s most famous prehistoric monument.
A million visitors a year go to the site on Salisbury Plain to admire what they believe are the untouched remains of the 4,000-year-old temple. What they do not learn from the official guidebooks is that virtually every stone has been re-erected, straightened or reset in a concrete boot by well-meaning restorers who "improved" the monument between 1901 and 1964.

Top court OKs zoning law, LDS temple
Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Opponents of a large new LDS temple near Boston lost a Supreme Court challenge Monday to a Massachusetts zoning law they said gives unconstitutional advantages to religious groups. The court, without comment, turned down the opponents' argument that the zoning law violates the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion. The 1950 state law says zoning ordinances cannot ban the construction of buildings for religious uses in any zoning area, although they can set requirements for size, height, parking and open space on a lot.
[So there's our test case. Anybody want to open up a Pagan Church? - Oak]

'Peyote pariah' faces legal, religion woes
Robert Gehrke - Associated Press writer
BENJAMIN, Utah County — James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney says he has seen people who use the peyote cactus freed from drug addiction and mental illness.
Now the mystical medicine he administers to his followers could cost Mooney his own freedom. On Oct. 10, sheriff's deputies raided Mooney's home and his adjoining church, seizing a ceremonial pipe, a computer and 33 pounds of peyote. Mooney was charged with a dozen counts of drug trafficking and one count of racketeering. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
He has also become a peyote pariah, scorned by medicine men convinced peyote should be reserved for American Indians.

Legislator Wants Preamble To Start R.I. School Days
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A state senator wants the 158,000 students in Rhode Island's public schools to begin each school day by reciting the prayer-like preamble to the state Constitution.  But the American Civil Liberties Union is objecting, saying the proposal is a blatant attempt to skirt U.S. Supreme Court decisions prohibiting prayer in public schools.
 "It is hard to conceive what secular purpose is served by reading this particular portion of the Constitution," said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU's Rhode Island affiliate. "It's really just a sham."  State Sen. Daniel Issa, D-Central Falls, is the primary sponsor of the bill, which calls for students in preschool through high school to recite the following:
          "We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence
      Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty
      which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a
      blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same,
      unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this
      Constitution of government."
[Oh, I get it. Since we can't actually lead the kids in prayer, we make 'em recite some historical invocation just to be sure they at least say "God" every day. - Oak]

1/10/01:  Bush Religion Proposals Questioned
WILL LESTER / Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration' s proposal to let the government help religious groups that deal with social problems is already raising questions such as the threat to churches' independence and the separation of church and state.
Those questions were addressed Wednesday by religious leaders and analysts during the presentation of a survey on the role of religion in public life.
The debate on religious groups is certain to grow because President-elect Bush plans to establish an "office of faith-based programs" in the White House. Bush wants to tap resources of the nation' s religious organizations to deal with social problems such as poverty, alcohol and drug abuse and affordable housing.

Ancient cave art threatened by mining in Dominican Republic
SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic (AP) -- Ancient drawings on cave walls, the work of a now-extinct people, are being threatened by modern man's need for concrete blocks and heartburn relief.
More than five centuries ago, Christopher Columbus landed on this island and set in motion events that would wipe out its Taino Indians. Now limestone mining threatens some of the last remaining evidence that Tainos ever lived here: thousands of drawings and carvings left in caves they considered a sacred site of the beginning of creation.
Here are copulating birds that themselves became extinct, a fish, lizards, cutefigures that look like creatures from another planet -- drawings in charcoal that one could imagine influencing Picasso. Archaeologists believe the oldest drawings are up to 2,000 years old, but no one is certain because you would have to destroy them to carbon-date them.
"These caves have been compared to the pyramids of Egypt in terms of their importance to Caribbean native culture," says Domingo Abreu, who has been exploring the caves for more than 20 years and gives tours to students and tourists.

Jesus video to hit all Texas households
RODNEY CARMICHAEL Tribune-Herald staff writer
Just in time for Easter, the Jesus Video Project of Texas has resurrected efforts to mail the 83-minute video of Jesus' life to every Texas household.
The first of a series of three mailings scheduled to occur this year in Texas will begin in late March. The non-denominational group composed of statewide Christian clergy and lay members originally planned to mail out the video last year but postponed efforts in order to give local organizing teams a chance to participate in the campaign.
"Research tells us that people will watch the video and get involved in local churches, more so, if they know that it is coming from local churches and local churches are involved," said Lee Miller, who is part of Texas' statewide team.

1/6/01:  'Include Spiritualism in Constitution'
Staff Reporter - The Hindu
BANGALORE, DEC. 28. Sri Gangadharendra Saraswati Swami of Swarnavali
 Mahasamsthana, Sonda in Sirsi taluk, on Thursday demanded that the
 M.N.Venkatachaliah Commission on Constitutional Review include Spiritualism in the
 Constitution to stop further "moral degradation" in society.
 Speaking to presspersons, Sri Gangadharendra Saraswati Swami, who headed an
 agitation against the Bedthi Hydro-electric Project some years ago, said that India was
 the only country which had "maintained equi-distance from all religions."
 Without directly referring to the way in which the word "secular" had been included in
 the Preamble of the Constitution during the period of Emergency in the 1970s, the
 swamiji said what was required was incorporation of the essence of all religions in the
 Constitution to guide the people in upholding spiritual and moral values.

Woman Wins Manson-Shirt Case Appeal
CHARLES WOLFE, Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A woman who strolled a town festival in a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, then was convicted of harassment because of its nasty language, won a reversal Friday from the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel said it was throwing out the conviction without getting into the case's free-speech issues.
The law defines harassment as a course of conduct intended to alarm or seriously annoy others. ``Wearing a T-shirt is not a course of conduct,'' the judges said in their unanimous ruling.
``A single act that annoys another person simply is not harassment as defined by the statute,'' the opinion said.

Students fail to prove Yale violated religious rights
DIANE SCARPONI - The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Four Orthodox Jewish students who said a sexually immodest atmosphere at Yale University's coed dormitories violated their religious beliefs have lost a court challenge.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims that Yale discriminated against the students or violated federal antitrust law by requiring unmarried freshmen and sophomores under age 21 to live on campus.

ACLU may enter Tenafly eruv dispute
 RICHARD COWEN - The Record Staff Writer
The American Civil Liberties Union is considering entering the dispute between Orthodox Jews and the borough of Tenafly over erection of an eruv, but the organization first must decide which side to take.
Lawyers for the ACLU are keeping a close watch on the the civil rights suit claiming religious discrimination that was filed last month by Orthodox Jews against Tenafly.
The ACLU is expected to decide whose side it is on and whether to join in the legal action by Jan. 18, the date of the next hearing in the case.

Rapist, Inspired by Bible, Cuts Off Penis
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A convicted Brazilian rapist sliced off his own penis and flushed it down the toilet, saying the amputation would bring him closer to God.
Prison guards said they found Flavio dos Santos Cruz, 23, screaming and profusely bleeding in his jail cell early Thursday after he cut off his penis with a shaving razor.
``He's alive. But since the penis was missing, he now will have to urinate through a tube,'' said urologist Aerton Barbosa Neves, who operated on Santos Cruz in the town of Andradina, about 410 miles from South America's biggest city of Sao Paulo.

1/4/01:  Suspect in atheist's disappearance convicted of fraud
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A suspect in the disappearance of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair was convicted Wednesday of using a false Social Security number to lease a storage unit where investigators believe O'Hair and her family were dismembered.
Gerald Lee Osborne, 50, faces up to five years in prison at sentencing March 9.
O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray and her granddaughter and adopted daughter Robin Murray O'Hair disappeared from San Antonio along with $500,000 in gold coins in 1995. No bodies have been found, but authorities believe they were killed.

2 say God ordered attack on cathedral
Rastafarian leaders denounce violence
CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Two men who attacked worshipers in a cathedral on this small Caribbean island, setting them ablaze and killing an Irish nun, told police they were sent by God to combat corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, authorities said.
"The way they're talking is that the world is going to end and that the time had come for what they had to do," police Inspector Gregory Montoute, who interrogated the men, said Monday.
The suspects – 20-year-old Kim John, and 34-year-old Francis Phillip – identified themselves as Rastafarians, Mr. Montoute said. Police spokesman Albert Fregis said St. Lucia's Rastafarian leaders denounced the attack Sunday at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the port town of Castries.

Prayer remains a fixture in Ohio's Statehouse
COLUMBUS: Ohio lawmakers meet in a publicly financed Statehouse to debate the best use of taxpayers' dollars, but that doesn't stop them from starting each session with a prayer.
Opening prayers by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious leaders are a fixture of sessions of the Ohio House and Senate and in legislatures across the country. The practice, established over centuries of tradition, is covered by a series of federal court rulings that protect it despite the First Amendment separation of church and state.
"The idea you want is to ask for guidance and help in making decisions," said Sen. Jim Jordan, an Urbana Republican and former House member who has invited his family minister to say a prayer before the Ohio House. "When you think about spending $40 billion in people's money over two years, you'd like as much wisdom and guidance in doing that as possible."

School Prayer Losing Support in Great Britain
End school daily prayer assemblies, says council
DAILY prayer assemblies in schools should be scrapped in favour of "quality" non-sectarian spiritual gatherings two or three times a week, a county education authority has proposed.
Worcestershire county council has written to the Department for Education, saying that the act of collective worship is no longer practical in many secondary and primary. Many do not have halls large enough to take all pupils simultaneously, some teachers exercise their right not to take part and religious diversity causes problems.

 'Devil' monkey put a curse on Customs
A WITCH doctor who posted himself a "devil" monkey loaded with cannabis, and 700 boxes of fake avocados made from papier mache and filled with cocaine were two of the more bizarre cases dealt with by Customs, officers disclosed yesterday.
Others included women who hid drugs under an Afro wig, a man who tried to smuggle thousands of ecstasy tablets in the arms of a JCB digger, and a man who swallowed 117 cocaine-filled condoms.
Nigel Knott, spokesman for South-East England Customs, based at Dover docks, said the witch doctor from Ghana who sent the "devil monkey" filled with cannabis had put a curse on the beast after his arrest.

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