OakGrove Archives
Past News and Issues
2nd Quarter 2001
6/24/01: Had the weekend off and finally had a chance to update the Cool Links page today. Over the past few weeks I've collected several links for the page, and I hope you'll agree that those I've added represent the best of the best.
Thanks to all who submitted links for your time and patience!. - Oak

All about Wiccans
The Florida Times-Union - No two Wiccans practice their faith the same way. But here's a look at some common terms:
Wicca: A pagan religion based on nature and the seasons. Those who practice Wicca are called Wiccans or witches. They use the forces of the earth to conduct spells to help people who are sick or in need. Wiccans can be male or female. Many Wiccans believe there are many deities and each has a female and male aspect. There is one basic rule in Wicca: except in self-defense, harm none.

6/23/01:  Durangoans celebrate summer solstice with Soulstice Parade
Jaime Banks - Herald Staff Writer
An eclectic mix of more than 200 costumed people danced and cartwheeled down Main Avenue for the first Summer Soulstice Parade and Celebration for the People on Saturday.
They followed drummers and dancers from the railroad depot to Buckley Park. Some dressed as butterflies, others in whimsical hats and one in nothing but boots and strategically placed ivy.

Fired teacher files lawsuit in witch case
The Associated Press
HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. -- A Long Island elementary school teacher is suing her school district, claiming co-workers and administrators harassed her for allegedly being a witch.
Lauren Berrios, 32, of Holtsville filed a notice of claim in U.S. District Court on Tuesday against the Hampton Bays School District. Berrios, who has taught at the school for two years, claims the school board violated the First and 14th Amendments. She says persistent rumors about her religious beliefs led to her termination.

Poll: Interest in spirits fascinates young and old
Watch out for ghosts. A new Gallup Poll shows that Americans' belief in the spirits of the dead and haunted houses is rising like a cloud of swamp gas at midnight.
"I thought half this stuff was wacky, but there are just too many people who believe in it for me to discount it," said Nick Sorise, who continually hears reports of ghost sightings from diners and staff at his Fenton restaurant, called the Fenton Hotel.
This growing interest in the spiritual world isn't all superstition, said Frank Newport, the editor of the Gallup Poll in Princeton, N.J. It reflects a broader  interest in many forms of spirituality, including mind-body-spirit connections with healing.

We're #1!
Wicca tops Lycos top 50 searches - again
Time for another edition of Equally Popular. This weekend we'll be taking a look at religion online.
We've checked out the searches for 13 different  religions and put them in order from
                            most-searched to least-searched, along with two other items that received the same number of searches last week.
As we've noted in the past, Wicca is the #1 religion online. Wicca finished as the #91 term on Lycos for the year 2000, mostly because of searches during Halloween, but curious witch wannabes are searching for it all year round.
[Note: If archived, check http://50.lycos.com/archives.html for June 22, 2001. - Oak]

Africa Marvels at First Eclipse of New Millennium
Manoah Esipisu
LUSAKA (Reuters) - The first solar eclipse of the millennium swept across southern Africa on Thursday, thrilling millions of people watching one of nature's great wonders.
Onlookers cheered and danced as the eclipse raced eastward, from Angola to Madagascar. In some areas, the moon's shadow blotted out the sun for more than four minutes.

Abortion clinics on alert following threats on Web site
Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Abortion clinics were placed on alert and federal marshals widened their search after a message, attributed to fugitive abortion clinic stalker Clayton Waagner, turned up on an anti-abortion web site.
"So the abortionist doesn't get the wrong idea, I don't plan on talking them to death. I'm going to kill as many of them as I can," the author of the lengthy, two-part message writes.

6/17/01:  House Condemns Taliban Over Hindu Badges
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives condemned on Wednesday a recent order by Afghanistan Taliban rulers requiring the nation's Hindus to wear yellow badges.
The House approved 420-0 a nonbinding resolution demanding that the Taliban revoke its order and abide by international civil and human rights standards.
Lawmakers said the Taliban's order, widely condemned around the globe, was reminiscent of the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

Peru Legislator Less Than Enchanted by Video Game
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - A congresswoman and staunch ally of Peru's ex-President Alberto Fujimori said on Tuesday she was suing two businessmen for more than $1 million after they portrayed her in a video game as a broom-riding witch.
``What they are doing is making children ... identify me with something that needs to be eliminated. This endangers my identity and even my life,'' Martha Chavez, who is seeking damages of $1.4 million, told Reuters.
["..needs to be eliminated?" Excuse me? - Oak]

 Regional Scout leaders call for end to gay ban
Barbara Dozetos - Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
The leaders of local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) councils in some of the nation's largest cities want the national organization to compromise on its blanket ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
A resolution presented at the BSA's national meeting in Boston last week asks the organization to let local sponsoring groups set their own policies regarding the sexual orientation of members.

Religious group may decline school meeting space
MILFORD, New York (AP) -- Though the nation's highest court has ruled that the Christian Good News Club has the right to gather at a public school, the Bible study group may never actually meet in the building.
Milford Central School district officials are weighing two options in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Monday: baring all groups from meeting there or pushing starting times back for all clubs until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., a few hours after students are dismissed.
The Rev. Stephen Fournier, organizer of the Good News Club, said the second choice wouldn't work because the group wants to meet directly after school so it can reach the most students.

High Court: religious clubs can meet in public schools
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled for a Christian youth group Monday in a church-state battle over whether religious groups must be allowed to meet in public schools after class hours.
In a 6-3 decision that lowered the figurative wall of separation between church and state, the justices said a New York public school district must let the Good News Club hold after-school meetings for grade-school children to pray and study the Bible.

6/10/01:  Wiccan student seeks spiritual awakening at Bay High
TONY SIMMONS - The News Herald
At least one Bay High School student thinks there isn't enough religion in today's public schools.
She wants to start a club that would fill her perceived need for greater understanding and spirituality among students.
Jennifer Saunders, 16, said she practices Wicca, a nature-based religion, and is a member of the Bay Area Pagan Society.
She said the idea of a "comparative religion" club came to her after she had been meditating during a lunch period and a Christian friend asked her what she was doing.
"It hit me: Why not a club where people can talk about things like this?" Saunders said. "There are two strictly-Christian religious clubs on campus, but this one would include discussions and debate about any real, legitimate religion."

Imajicka's Book Review - The Wiccan/Pagan Times
Keepers of the Flame: Interviews with Elders of Traditional Witchcraft in America
by Morganna Davies and Aradia Lynch
 In recent years there has been an explosion of new books released by a variety of publishers that run the gamut from the simple how-to books all the way up to scholarly treatments of Paganism, Neo-Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and the occult in general. With a few notable exceptions the subject of Traditional Witchcraft in America has pretty much remained untouched by many of these releases which makes Keepers of the Flame a book that will be of interest to those who have ever wondered about some of the Traditions that currently exist in America and how to contact them.

House panel kills Bush proposal on endangered species
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rejecting a prominent part of President Bush's environmental agenda, House Republicans shot down a proposal restricting the ability of environmental groups to get plants and animals added to the endangered species list.
At issue are the kind of lawsuits that largely have established the Interior Department's priorities in deciding which species deserve protection.
Mary Beth Beetham, director of legislative affairs for the Defenders of Wildlife,said the Bush provision "would have gutted citizen enforcement of the  Endangered Species Act." But Interior Secretary Gale Norton has argued it was  necessary to let the Fish and Wildlife Service do its job.

Tribe debates use of sacred land
Quintin Ellison, STAFF WRITER
CHEROKEE — As a child, Eddie Bushyhead sometimes wondered where his people came from and why they settled in the Southern Appalachians.
When the boy would ask those questions, he’d receive this answer: The Cherokee are from here.
"I didn’t understand what they meant," Bushyhead said. "But I do now."

Rome's Hidden Healing Island
John Huddleston
The late afternoon sun scattered diamonds across the dark surface of the Tiber River and a warm breeze from the Capitoline Hill surrounded me with the sweet scent of pine and cypress as I walked onto the ancient gray Ponte Fabricio, the only stone bridge remaining from the time of Julius Caesar. At the other end of the span a delicate crescent of stone and soil seemed to float in the middle of the blue-green Tiber like a ship at permanent anchorage. Isola Tiberina is Rome's only island. It's on few tourist itineraries but an Italian friend said it's her favorite soothing place, hidden amid the swirl of modern Rome. It was also a pre-Christian power point. She wouldn't tell me much more than that but said, "Go and see for yourself."

Vatican to rule out online confessions
Philip Willan
(IDG) -- While businesses fight to keep commercially-sensitive information from leaking across the Internet, the Catholic church is preparing to ban traffic in information of a more personal nature: online confession will be off the menu for connected members of the congregation.
The Internet is an excellent instrument for evangelization and religious dialogue, but it cannot be turned into an online recycle bin for sins in place of traditional face-to-face confessions, a senior Vatican official said Tuesday.

VMI asks court to dismiss prayer lawsuit
LYNCHBURG, Virginia (AP) -- The Virginia Military Institute has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by two students who say the school's evening dinner prayer violates their constitutional rights.
Maj. Gen. Josiah Bunting III, superintendent of the state-supported school, said "no cadet is compelled to participate in these prayers, or remain at attention or bow his head while the prayer is being said."
The prayer has been said at VMI since at least the 1950s.

High court drops damages cap in harassment cases
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a cap on certain damages workers can be awarded in cases involving mistreatment in the workplace.
By a vote of 8-0, the high court sided with a former chemical plant worker who claimed her male colleagues shunned her and sabotaged her work. She had sued to overturn a $300,000 cap that a federal appeals court applied to her case.
In doing so, the court held that workers wronged on the job cannot be limited to $300,000 in "front pay" damages -- money they presumably would have earned had the employer acted correctly.

Scary studies voodoo
Spice Girl makes witchcraft documentary
Scary Spice Mel B is making a documentary about witchcraft. The show, which will be filmed in South Africa, will show how voodoo, witch doctors and medicine men still play a part in African society. 'It's something I've always been fascinated by,' says the Spice Girl. 'It wasn't my idea but I jumped at the chance to present it.'

5/28/01:  Belated exoneration sought for hanged Salem 'witches'
SALEM, Massachusetts (AP) -- It was a time when trembling witnesses and "spectral evidence" could lead to the gallows.
But when Susannah Martin stood accused of "Sundry acts of Witchcraft" during the Salem witch trials of 1692, she defiantly laughed at her accusers, one of whom fell into a fit during the trial.
"Well I may (laugh) at such folly," Martin told her inquisitors, according to court records. "I have no hand in witchcraft."
Ten days later, Martin was hanged on Gallows Hill.
Now, more than 300 years after her execution, Martin's descendants are pressuring state lawmakers to exonerate her and four other women caught up in the spiral of fear, recrimination, and blood that seized this town along the rocky New England coast.

5/27/01:  Church flier prompts school policy review
LYNN PORTER - The Tampa Tribune
LARGO - A complaint moves the Pinellas school district to consider more restrictions on how far announcements of nonschool-related events can go.
Second-grader Sarah Sharfstein was excited when she was handed a flier at Tarpon Springs Elementary announcing a Christian prayer rally before classes.
``A Generation Seeking God,'' announced the flier, which also touted a church ``Hallelujah Party'' at which children would receive candy.
``She brings it home and asks, `Can I go, can I go, can I go?' '' her grandmother, Claudia Duberstein, recalled of the fall incident.
Duberstein told Sarah, then 7, she couldn't attend. The family is Jewish.

Appeals Court Allows Graduation Prayer
Melanie Hunter - CNSNews.com Evening Editor
(CNSNews.com) - A federal appeals court ruling Thursday affirmed the rights of Florida public school students to choose a classmate to give a prayer at high school graduation.
The court's ruling is "fundamentally different" from that of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that student-led prayers at public school football games in Santa Fe, Texas were unconstitutional because they were officially sanctioned.

Shamans set up a code of ethics to fight shams
Traditional healers create union in Colombian Amazon
Alan Boyle - MSNBC
For the first time, Amazonian medicine men have drawn up a code of ethics and established a union to police themselves, complete with membership cards. The union of Colombian shamans is trying to weed out people who are exploiting traditional ways for big profits and cheap thrills.

Taleban move to make Afghan Hindus wear labels
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The ruling Taleban leadership in Afghanistan announced plans on Tuesday to force Hindus to wear identity labels on their clothing to differentiate them from Muslims.
A Taleban spokesman said the order was issued to safeguard the rights of Hindus so that they are not accosted by the religious police who ensure that Afghans adhere to Muslim rules.
[Yeah, right. - Oak]

Delhi burns prayer fires to ward off 'Monkey Man'
CNN's Suhasini Haidar
NEW DELHI, India -- Hindu prayer fires are burning in New Delhi as some residents of India's capital city try something new to rid them of a menace that's plagued them for a week.
Thousands of people in Delhi still believe a monkey-man is on the loose after reports emerged of a strange creature that climbs up on rooftops and attacks men, women and children in their homes.

Utah polygamist found guilty
PROVO, Utah (CNN) -- A jury in the U.S. state of Utah has found an avowed polygamist guilty on four counts of bigamy.
Tom Green, 52, a self-professed "fundamentalist" Mormon who lives with his five wives and 29 children near Trout Creek, 125 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, had testified that he married the women in a spiritual sense.
Along with the bigamy charges, the jury also found Green guilty of failure to pay child support.
He faces a possible prison sentence of 25 years.

Faith uproar unfolds at Erwin Middle School
Clarke Morrison, STAFF WRITER
ERWIN – An Erwin Middle School parent says her daughter has been harassed by other students because of the family’s pagan religious beliefs and the behavior was condoned by school officials.
Vannessa McNelly said the situation turned particularly ugly at a school concertTuesday when parents and students jeered her and her daughter and told them they were "going to hell."
[Note: This issue is still a hot topic at this posting, and while the school maintains its innocence of any conspiracy in the matter, the school superintendent is investigating, as are Federal authorities and the ACLU.
Your comments may be directed to: Cliff Dodson, Superintendent
175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806
 (828)-255-5923 fax
- Oak]

Schools sued over hymns
Bill Bush - Dispatch Staff Reporter
It's been 10 months since the Board of Education began considering whether hymns and other religious music have a place in Columbus schools. Now the foot-dragging has landed the district in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a federal lawsuit yesterday on behalf of three families who are challenging Columbus Public Schools' practice of having student choral groups perform Christian music.
The suit said the practice is "effectively endorsing, promoting and sponsoring religion over non-religion and the Christian faith over other faiths, all in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.''

School District Defies Supreme Court Rulings - Bans Religious Material
A Michigan school district is thumbing its at the U.S. Constitution by banning the presence of any religious material on campus grounds in defiance of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Houghton-Portage Township School District and principal Kathryn Simila are being hauled into court for their unconstitutional anti-religious policies after halting the distribution by some students of Campus Crusade for Christ Student Survival Kits.

Students, School at Odds Over Graduation Prayers
WASHINGTON, Ill. — A dispute has developed between the members of the senior class of Washington High School and administrators over whether prayers should be said at the start and at the end of the school's graduation ceremony.
Several seniors say they feel the inclusion of prayer during the ceremony is unconstitutional. They've taken their argument to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has asked school officials to urge an end to the practice.

Afghan Taliban burn musical instruments
KABUL: Religious squads of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia have burned musical instruments and punished more than 80 men who had trimmed their beards in violation of its Islamic code, state radio reported yesterday.
The musical instruments along with recently seized hashish were torched at a main intersection in Taloqan, the capital of northeastern Takhar province, the official Radio Shariat said.

Church, Concord go to court over site
The city denied a use permit for religious usage at Park & Shop's old Capri, wanting the space used for retail instead
CONCORD -- Harvest Church leaders are praying to the courts for relief in their battle to operate an event center at the former Capri Theater on Willow Pass Road.
A church lawsuit going to trial this week challenges the Concord City Council's "retail mantra" in rejecting a use permit for the event center.

5/12/01:  Late updates this month
The grove's completely overrun with weeds lately, as a situation at work has had me there 12 hours daily. When you get up at 5 AM and don't get home until after 6 at night, by the time you shower and grab a bite to eat there's not much time left to spend at the keyboard if you want to have any quality time with the family at all. I got this weekend off, so before I take what's-her-name and the kids out to dinner and a movie tonight, here's what I've managed to find on the web lately:

Interfaith group says no to pagans
Church of Spiral Oak offered observer status instead of membership
JIM CARNEY - Beacon Journal staff writer
An Akron interfaith group founded to promote tolerance between religions rejected full voting membership for a church of pagans yesterday.
However, in a compromise move, the Akron Area Interfaith Council voted to allow a representative of The Church of Spiral Oak to attend meetings as an observer for a three-year term.
The council rejected giving the pagan group one-year and five-year observer status.
``We at the Church of Spiral Oak are deeply disappointed with this decision,'' said church outreach counselor Joe Jerek. ``We are disappointed by the fear and misunderstanding by some members of the council.''
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

A real belter of a Beltane
Robert McNeilRED beasties and white warrior women danced with weird and wonderful abandon upon the sacred hill.
Flames lit the night sky and wild rhythms echoed around the old stone monuments, as the May Queen made her way, surrounded by hand maidens, to the spot where the Green Man of Winter would be slain, only to be re-born as the Green Man of Summer.
In the wee small distinctly fairy-like hours of this morning, thousands thronged Calton Hill, in Edinburgh, for the spectacle of pyromania and frenzied gyration that is the Beltane Fire Festival.
Now a firm fixture in the august city’s calendar of social and spiritual events, the Beltane is billed as a coming together, a transformatory event and a fertility rite.
It is also, of course, a great opportunity to paint your face, get blotto and make a lot of noise. Here, one can get spaced out beside the City Observatory.

Commander will review Saudi dress code
Edward T. Pound, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The senior U.S. military commander in Saudi Arabia will review and may change a policy requiring female personnel deployed in that country to wear a neck-to-toe robe known as an abaya, military officials say.
The review was disclosed in the wake of complaints about the dress policy by Maj. Martha McSally, 35, the highest-ranking female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. In an interview published April 18 in USA TODAY, McSally said that the policy discriminated against women.

Bill would allow faith-based day- care centers to skip licensing. Opponents fear for children.
With all the government attention being lavished these days on faith-based organizations, state Rep. Tom Armstrong says, it's odd that a Pennsylvania agency has a hostile relationship with some of those same groups.
Two bills in the General Assembly, one of which is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, might change that.
House Bill 1110, co-sponsored by six Republican county lawmakers, including Armstrong, exempts religious-affiliated child-care centers from what they consider unwarranted intrusion by state regulators. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

House OKs bill on fetus as a victim Critics call it attack on abortion
Jill Zuckman - Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- With a president taking their side for the first time in eight years, abortion opponents in the House voted Thursday to make it a federal crime to harm a fetus during an attack on its mother.
The bill is the first associated with abortion issues to be considered by this Congress. Abortion-rights activists said the legislation is just the beginning of a congressional onslaught against a woman's right to have an abortion by elevating the fetus' status to that of a person. President Bush's stated willingness to sign this and other such bills into law, they charged, will open the legislative floodgates.

Is charity plan fair?
Nonmainstream groups could get money under Bush proposal
Laura Meckler / Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Sending taxpayer dollars to the neighborhood church or synagogue sounds like a great idea to many Americans. But what about government money for the Nation of Islam, Scientologists, Hare Krishnas or Wiccans?
   The question is asked repeatedly in the debate over President Bush's plan to open federal programs to religious groups. Both sides agree there is only one answer: Yes, all religions are eligible to apply for government contracts because to bar certain faiths from competing would amount to an unconstitutional government establishment of religion.
   "It's a settled issue of constitutional law," said John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives.
   "The Constitution requires equal treatment," said the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "If you fund the Methodists, then you've got to fund the Muslims and the Mormons, too."
   Still, the issue will not go away, partly because opponents like Lynn are doing what they can to highlight the unpopular aspects of Bush's plan and partly because supporters sometimes obfuscate when asked about the matter.
   Testifying before Congress last month, DiIulio was asked whether Wiccans, people who practice witchcraft, could get money. He responded that he could not understand why anyone would focus on Wiccans.

4/28/01:  Pagans welcome at table?
Interfaith Council considers options
COLETTE M. JENKINS  - Beacon Journal religion writer
The Rev. Nancy Arnold knows how to mediate.
But she may need some divine intervention as she presides over the Akron Area Interfaith Council on Tuesday, when the organization is expected to vote on whether to grant a pagan church full council membership.
``I'm going to pray a lot between now and then,'' said Arnold, council president and pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church. ``Everyone is really grappling with this.
 ``But it's not an issue of trying to oppress anyone religiously. It's a question of how to keep with the conscience of your own religious convictions and canons and remain part of an  interfaith council that might go against that.''
The Church of Spiral Oak, a pagan group that meets monthly for discussion and ceremonies, has had observer status on the 20-member council for nearly three years. The nondenominational, multidevotional church, with tax-exempt status, has about 65 active members and 150 members on its rolls.

State's Supreme Court refuses to hear voucher case
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court has refused to review a ruling upholding the state's school voucher law, ending part of the constitutional challenge to the measure.
Last spring, Circuit Judge Ralph Smith Jr. ruled the law violated the state constitution by allowing tax dollars to be spent on private schools. An appeals court overturned his ruling in October.

Ancient cities face dangers of development
CHAMPASAK, Laos (AP) -- Stepping down a jungled hillside, the romantic temple languished in rural isolation for centuries, while around it, beneath the rice fields, slumbered one of the oldest cities in Southeast Asia.
Wat Phu, the architectural gem of Laos, and the surrounding ancient shrines, urban dwellings, roads and canals are now awakening. Archaeologists just hope it won't prove a rude one.
They fear the Champasak Cultural Landscape area, nominated last year for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, could be degraded by tourism before a sound management plan is emplaced. They also worry it could be hastily restored with tourist dollars rather than historic authenticity in mind.

Clash at Loch Ness
Witch, Scientists Converge in Hunt for 'Monster'
Tony Eufinger
L O N D O N, April 24 — The epic search for the Loch Ness monster turned ugly today, as a witch cast spells on an angry team of Swedish scientists.
Armed with long nets, multi-beam sonar equipment and acoustic cameras, scientists led by Jan Sundberg set out on a 12-day mission to capture the legendary creature and take a sample of its DNA. But they probably would have considered themselves lucky to get a little media attention, or a few blurry photographs.
But in an unusual turn of events, the team’s efforts were temporarily scuttled by the forces of witchcraft, as one man threatened to steal the show.
Kevin Carlyon, a high priest in the British Coven of White Witches,  turned up to cast spells on the group’s boat and the loch, the body of water where the beast is said to reside.

Suit Claims Using Birth Control Pills Is AbortionCynthia L. Cooper
    WEnews correspondent
Opening a new front in the abortion rights battle, a lawsuit brought by an anti-choice pharmacist rests on her claim that the birth control pills she refused to dispense actually cause abortion by preventing a possible pregnancy.
(WOMENSENEWS)--A case in federal court in Ohio may indicate a new line of challenges to reproductive rights, as an anti-choice plaintiff and her lawyers argue for the first time that dispensing a standard-issue birth control pill is the legal equivalent of performing an abortion and that anti-abortion pharmacists need not fill prescriptions for the pill.
Judge Herman J. Weber of the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati has accepted their arguments as plausible, placing on the court's docket the very definition of when pregnancy begins. A pretrial hearing is set for May 18, a trial following in early summer.

Loch Ness Monster Hunter Nets Big Witch Trouble
EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Veteran monster hunter Jan Sundberg landed himself in hot water with a white witch on Tuesday as he began an underwater attempt to catch the most famous and elusive resident of Scotland's Loch Ness.
The Swede has sparked fury among animal lovers and witches alike with plans for Operation 'Clean Sweep', a trawl of the lake which he hopes will net Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness monster.
But Kevin Carlyon, high priest of the British White Witches, is determined to put a stop to the hunt by casting a protective spell over the loch and any monsters lurking peacefully beneath the waves.

Dousing a religious flap
At the urging of his boss, an atheist firefighter at odds with a Christian firefighters group has drafted a new policy aimed at keeping religious and political agendas off the walls of the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
A year ago, Bruce Monson, 34, came up with a rebuttal to Bible passages hung on a Fire Station No. 10 bulletin board that carries news from the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters.
Monson, an atheist who was raised Baptist, put up his own bulletin board and hung examples of what he calls "the ugly, less savory side of the Bible." He included the Old Testament story of Lot, who impregnated his daughters.
When some of his colleagues protested, Monson was ordered to take his material down. He didn't know what to expect when he took his concerns to Fire Chief Manuel Navarro.

Army corps settles lawsuit over Indian graves
BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) -- A lawsuit over erosion of American Indian graves along the Missouri River has been settled after months of negotiations between the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Both parties filed to dismiss the case from federal court on Monday.
Remains of descendants of Chief Mad Bear, leader of a band of Hunkpapa Lakota Indians, were found near Wakpala, South Dakota, in August, when water levels dropped in Lake Oahe.
Tribal members filed suit, contending that poor management of the Missouri River led to exposure of the remains and left them open to looters.

4/22/01:  Eight dead over missing penis
Lagos - Eight members of a religious group accused of using black magic to make a man's penis disappear were lynched by a mob in southwest Nigeria at the weekend, a press report said on Tuesday.
The victims, all members of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star were killed on Saturday in Ilesa, Osun State, the Comet newspaper reported.

Lawsuit: Cardinal's blood used as religious relic
NEW YORK (AP) -- A cancer doctor who treated the late Cardinal Terence Cooke is accused in a lawsuit by a dismissed employee of loaning samples of the prelate's blood to patients as the "relic" of a possible saint.
Holly McCunn accused Fahey of directing her to give certain patients a slide that he said contained a sample of the cardinal's blood so that they could use it to pray.
[And they think Pagans have strange rituals? - Oak]

BYU uses space technology to decode ancient texts
Hannah Wolfson, Associated Press
PROVO, Utah (AP) It used to take scholars weeks or even months to decipher ancient scrolls scorched in the eruption that buried Pompeii if the texts weren't blackened beyond recognition.
But Brigham Young University researchers have used light-imaging technology originally designed for NASA to clean up the scrolls, making it possible to read texts that date back more than 2,000 years.

Lawsuit Over Religious Zoning Law
MARYCLAIRE DALE - Associated Press Writer
ABINGTON, Pa.- In a quiet cul-de-sac, set among million-dollar homes in the suburbs north of Philadelphia, a driveway leads to a tranquil estate with two stone houses and a chapel.
The land has been home to a wealthy executive's family, Roman Catholic nuns-in-training and a pair of Greek Orthodox monks.
But when a small congregation of Reform Jews struck a deal to buy it and applied for permission to turn it into a synagogue and Hebrew school, Abington Township officials refused.

'Salem Falls' burns with romance, courtroom drama (Book review)
Georgia Jones-Davis - The Washington Post
Jodi Picoult's new novel, "Salem Falls," is a carefully crafted and researched story
                   about witches and witch-hunting in New England. This crime procedural works neatly as a pop version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" for our sex-obsessed
                   times. Picoult's tale features the required adolescent girls flirting with witchcraft and dancing unclad around a bonfire in the woods, accusations of rape, hysteria, an imperfect justice system and two innocent victims at the center of all the evil swirling around them.

Villagers Kill Woman Seen As Witch
PORT MORESBY (Reuters) - Villagers in the Papua New Guinea highlands killed a woman accused of sorcery with axes, knives and a shotgun, the AAP news agency reported on Thursday.The agency quoted Chimbu province police commander Superintendent Simon Kauba as saying another suspected witch survived the lynching in the village of Segima.
Kauba said the attack was ``gruesome and barbaric.'' The murdered woman, who was accused of causing the death of a boy, was hacked to pieces and her remains thrown into a river.

Colorado governor signs 'rebirthing' ban
DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Gov. Bill Owens on Tuesday signed a bill into law that prohibits the use of "rebirthing" techniques by mental health professionals, a move that comes one year after a 10-year-old girl died while undergoing such therapy.
Two therapists are charged with child abuse in the death of Candace Newmaker of Durham, North Carolina. They are now standing trial.

4/16/01:  We should note the meaning, not the origin
Patricia  Smith
MOREHEAD CITY -- As Earth Day approaches, school children around the state this week will take part in ceremonies designed to heighten environmental awareness and encourage them to recycle and not pollute the water and air.
But not everyone is so gung-ho on the idea.
An editorial sent out by the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh-based, conservative, research organization, took issue with the way children celebrate Earth Day and learn environmentalism in the public schools.
One of the points brought up by the Locke Foundation is that the term "Mother Earth" refers to a pagan deity and that teaching children to use the term is the same as asking them to say "Jesus saves" or "Allah be praised."
The editorial references a case in New York in which the state courts ruled that Mother Earth pertains to Gaia, the Greek goddess of Earth.

  'Innocent Blood' on CBS menu
Nellie Andreeva
LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- CBS is bringing back to the small screen the horrifying tale of the Salem witch trials. Two-time Emmy winner Kirstie Alley, Oscar and Emmy winner Shirley MacLaine and Alan Bates are set and Gloria Reuben is in negotiations to star in "Innocent Blood: The True Story of the Salem Witch Trials," a four-hour miniseries produced by Alliance Atlantis in association with Spring Creek Prods.
Maria Nation (CBS' "Season for Miracles") has written the original script. Four-time Emmy winner Joseph Sargent (HBO's "A Lesson Before Dying") will direct the project, scheduled to begin production April 30 in Canada. Originally, the idea was to shoot the mini in Nova Scotia in a village used for the movie "The Crucible," which also looks into the Salem witch trials.

Devil-worshipper pleads guilty in church fires
GAINESVILLE, Georgia (AP) -- A self-described "missionary of Lucifer" serving prison time for 26 church fires around the country pleaded guilty Friday in five Georgia blazes, including one that killed a firefighter.
Federal prosecutors said they would seek a life sentence for Jay Scott Ballinger, 38, of Yorktown, Indiana. No sentencing date was set.

4/12/01:  Suit threatened over prayer
The Associated Press
ALEXANDRIA -- The American Civil Liberties Union, acting on a parent's complaint, sent a letter Friday to Rapides Parish school officials threatening to sue the district if prayer at official school events is allowed.
According to the ACLU, the principal of Paradise Elementary School endorses prayer at graduation ceremonies and also is planning to allow students to pray at a substance-abuse prevention program meeting sponsored by D.A.R.E.

ADL Says B.C. Comic Strip is a Throwback to the Teaching of Contempt Against Jews
New York, NY … Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today issued the following statement on the upcoming Easter Sunday edition of the syndicated comic strip B.C., by Johnny Hart, which depicts the number seven through a candelabrum that is superceded by a cross:
"The menorah has no place or role in the Christian religion, yet the cartoonist uses this core symbol of Judaism and makes it disappear into a cross with the words, "It is finished." It is as if Johnny Hart is telling his audience that Christianity now supersedes Judaism as the "true" faith."

Schools walk fine line on prayer
Andrew Griffin and Melissa Gregory
If most Cenla school officials had their way, prayer would be allowed in schools.
But some realize that federal court rulings aren't going to allow that, and they want to follow the law of the land.
Religion in school is in the spotlight now that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Rapides Parish school system over the distribution of Bibles and playing of Bible games at Paradise Elementary. The ACLU has also threatened to sue over prayers allowed at Paradise Elementary.
The ACLU's involvement is not sitting well with some area residents.
Mike Fluitt Sr., a minister from Tioga, said ACLU, which he dubbed the "Anti-Christ Legal Union," has gone on a rampage to remove all of Christianity from the public.
Prayers are said at some area schools before a variety of events, including football and other games.
The ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of an 11-year-old Paradise Elementary School student, alleging she was forced to accept a Bible from principal John Cotton in December 2000.
The lawsuit also alleges that the girl, who is Muslim, was forced to participate in a Bible-based trivia game and subjected to harassment from her fifth-grade classmates.
Cotton has also been accused by the ACLU of allowing prayers in school.

4/9/01:  Ex-Beatle Harrison to sell home after
  attack -paper
  LONDON (Reuters) - Former Beatle George Harrison is to sell the 120-room mansion in the British countryside where he was nearly killed by a knife-wielding intruder, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Mail on Sunday said the legendary guitarist has told friends he is uncomfortable in the house in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, following the December 1999 attack.
Harrison, 57, suffered a punctured lung when he confronted attacker Michael Abram in his house on the night of December 30, 1999.
Only the actions of Harrison's wife Olivia, 52, who struck Abram over the head with a poker and table lamp, saved the star.
Abram, a heroin addict currently serving an indefinite term at a psychiatric hospital, believed Harrison was a witch who had to be killed.

4/7/01:  'Witch' Fights Legal First to End Exile
ACCRA (Reuters) - An 80-year-old Ghanaian woman has taken pioneering steps toward ending an ancient practice which condemns dozens of women each year to a life of exile and misery as witches, the state Ghanaian Times said on Thursday.
Janet Tibu has taken legal action against the chief and elders of Peki-Avetile in the Volta region, who declared her a witch last August, fined her and cast her out of her village.

Witches cast spell to safeguard Eastbourne
Witches will be casting a spell at Beachy Head this weekend to safeguard Eastbourne.
The gathering comes three days after a chalky section of the clifftops, known as Devil's Chimney, collapsed into the sea.
This weekend's cleansing is being organised by the High Priest of British White Witches, Kevin Carlyon.
Victorian occultist and mountaineer Aleister Crowley climbed the landmark in 1894 and later claimed in pagan writings "when Devil's Chimney falls, so will the fortunes of Eastbourne".

Jurors watch disturbing 'rebirthing therapy' video
GOLDEN, Colorado (CNN) -- Several jurors wiped tears and at least one cried openly as the video of a controversial "rebirthing" session that ended in death was played for the first time in a Colorado courtroom.
Two therapists are charged with child abuse in the death of their client, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker of Durham, North Carolina.

Violence has parents teaching kids at home
As horrific shooting sprees increase on public school grounds, the number of children being taught at home is growing significantly.
The number of kids receiving instruction from their parents, other relatives or adult neighbors has tripled from about 500,000 in the mid-1990s to at least 1.5 million this year, according to home-schooling expert Brian Ray.

Teen, Proud To Be Straight, Sues School
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A teen-ager and his parents sued the South Washington (Minn.) School District because the principal at his high school said the boy couldn't wear a sweat shirt that said "Straight Pride."
The Woodbury High School student, Elliott Chambers, wore the shirt to "express his religious and political convictions to other students, teachers and staff regarding intimate personal relationships," according to the lawsuit this week filed in U.S. District Court.
"Elliott's sweat shirt merely makes a positive statement about heterosexuality," said Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy, a Tupelo, Miss., group that filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the school's policies were unconstitutional and seeks an order that would allow Elliott to wear his "Straight Pride" shirt.

More schools could cash in on vouchers
State legislation would expand disputed program
DOUG OPLINGER and Dennis J. Willard - Beacon Journal staff writers
COLUMBUS: Cleveland's controversial school voucher program -- ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts -- would be expanded to other districts under a proposal to be outlined today.
State Sen. Bryan Williams, R-Akron, said yesterday that he will introduce a bill to allow children in 35 school districts -- including Akron, Canton and other major cities -- to receive state tax dollars to attend a private school.

4/1/01:  Microsoft finally 'fesses up!
In a shocking announcement today Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, admitted to a situation that had been suspected for several years, stunning PC users worldwide. We have obtained a transcript of this statement; Click here to view this file.

Hehe.. And now for the news:
Dutch gays set to legally wed
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Four gay couples are preparing to be the first to exchange rings and vows as a  groundbreaking new Dutch law comes into force.
The Dutch legislation, which comes into force at midnight on Saturday (2300 GMT), gives gay couples equal rights with other married couples under civil law.

Religious charity effort may bring suit, aide says
Bush official feels church-state fears exaggerated
Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Bush's point man for directing more federal money to religious charities says the effort probably will wind up in court, even as he tries to convince Americans that concerns over mixing church and state are overstated.
"Americans sue each other. They sue and sue and sue," John DiIulio said in an interview. "I guess it's going to happen."

Thefts of Satan's road sign on the rise
ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Someone keeps stealing the road signs for Route 666 in Morris County.
Could it be ... Satan?
County transportation officials don't think so. They believe the signs were stolen by tourists who want offbeat  souvenirs and religious people offended by the number, which is associated with Satan in the Bible.

Judge dismisses suit by students denied cross mural
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force the Kenosha School District to allow students to paint a cross on a Bible club mural.
Two students and a parent who sued the district did not show that the district caused them injury when Tremper High School Principal Chester Pulaski refused a request to distribute religious literature at the school, U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert said in a decision made public Thursday.

Saudi Arabia issues ban on Pokemon cards, games
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Marwa Khaled Ismail has spent months of pocket money collecting Pokemon cards. The 8-year-old is obsessed with trying to beat her siblings and classmates at the Pokemon video game.
Her father, Khaled, has long felt that the games dominated the lives of Marwa and her three siblings, diverted them from their prayers, and affected their studies, though "you can't always say no to your children."

Bill puts school prayer in play
BEN FELLER - The Tampa Tribune
Undaunted by a ruling from the country's highest court, four freshmen lawmakers want to empower every Florida school board to offer prayer at student events.
A bipartisan House bill would allow prayer at graduations, athletic events and voluntary student gatherings at secondary schools. School boards could provide the option, but students would decide whether they want blessings at their events, the bill says.

Afghanistan is a faceless nation
PAMELA CONSTABLE - The Washington Post
This is a country without faces.
Postage stamps show landscapes, currency is engraved with mosques. Government  ministry walls are adorned with calligraphy, hotel rooms hung with floral designs.
In the bazaars, there are posters and calendars for sale depicting Mecca in 100 styles, but none showing people.
Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban, which enforces its strict interpretation of the  Islamic ban on idols and human images - viewed as an insult to God. Two weeks ago,  the Taliban shocked the world by demolishing two 1,500-year-old stone statues of Buddha.

Dispute Over Ten Commandments Simmers in Kentucky
LONDON, Kentucky (Reuters) - Displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and public buildings -- a highly emotional issue in Kentucky's southeastern Bible Belt -- will be allowed for another 30 days while opposing sides strive for a compromise, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Juanita Coffman decided on Friday not to hold local officials in contempt for allegedly defying her order last year to remove the religious display from the walls of schools and county courthouses in three southeastern Kentucky counties.

Measure Will Hurt Churches, Taxpayers And Families In Need, Asserts Church-State Watchdog Group
"Faith-based" legislation introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives would violate the Constitution's church-state provisions and subject America's houses of worship to entangling government red tape and possible lawsuits, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The measure, known as the Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7), sponsored by Reps. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio), includes controversial "charitable choice" provisions that give government grants and contracts to churches to provide social services. The legislation reflects the Bush administration's faith-based initiative announced in January.

British documentary suggests dark-skinned Jesus
LONDON (AP) -- Was Jesus dark-skinned? Was he actually born in a cave?
"Son of God," a new documentary television series co-produced by the British Broadcasting Corp., considers these questions in its attempt at a purely scientific investigation into the Messiah of Christendom.
"The combination of new scientific and archaeological discoveries with a reevaluation of the historicity of the Gospels has allowed us to tell the story of Jesus in a fresh and exciting way," co-producer Michael Wakelin said of the three-part series, to begin broadcast April 1.
The documentary is to be broadcast in the United States in its entirety on April 15 on The Discovery Channel, which co-produced it.

Citing love of God, church members burn books, tapes
CARMEN J. LEE - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PENN TOWNSHIP, Pa. - Dana Schreiber, 44, of Richland, brought about a dozen mellow rock albums from the '70s such as "Foreigner" and "Joe Walsh." Some of the lyrics and song titles she no longer approves of, and her two teen-age daughters enjoy contemporary Christian music, so there was no reason to keep them around the house, she said.
"I was always going to pitch them, so this was a prime opportunity," she said of Sunday night's ceremony at Harvest Assembly of God Church in Penn Township, Butler County. "This kind of prompted me to do it."

Air Force Expands Religious Preference List
Ellicott City, MD - March 23, 2001:After years of having to have "Other" or "No Preference" as a religious preference in military records, Neopagans in the Air Force now have an opportunity to be listed as a Pagan, Shaman, Druid, Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, or Seax Wicca. In the past, military members could have a different religious preference imprinted on their dog tags, but there was never any official recognition of the members' choice in the Personnel Data System.
Tony Gatlin, a Major in the United States Air Force, accomplished this achievement over the course of five months. In his e-mail to MPN Major Gatlin stated, "I'm excited about the change. I think it will help meet the faith needs of a growing number of our Air Force family. It will potentially allow ministry support personnel to plan better for deployment requirements, and it will provide the Air Force a clearer picture of its religious population. I was proud to register my religion in the Personnel Data System, and hope that others will be, too." It is our hope that all Neopagans in the Armed Forces will feel the same way.

School rejected girl's religious cards, suit says
Second-grader's constitutional rights violated, lawsuit claims
AMY HETZNER -  Journal Sentinel staff
A school that allowed students to exchange valentines featuring Britney Spears and boy band 'N Sync violated a second-grader's constitutional rights by rejecting her homemade cards celebrating Jesus, a religious liberty organization alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Kettle Moraine School District student Morgan Nyman, 8, was told she couldn't distribute Valentine's Day cards with such sayings as "Jesus loves you" and "Freely rely on God" because they were religious, according to the federal lawsuit filed in Milwaukee by the Longwood, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel.

Exposure to nature may make people healthier
Elizabeth Cohen - CNN Medical Unit
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- We all know that exposure to bad things in the environment can make you sick, but could good things in the environment  actually make your healthier?
Maybe so. An article in this month's  American Journal of Preventive Medicine  reviews several studies that suggest even looking at nature can boost people's health.

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