Utah NOW Endorses
Multi-Wife Polygamy
by Chuck Shepherd

October 17, 1997

At a National Organization for Women's gathering in Utah, Elizabeth Joseph, an attorney, and Ellen George, secretary of the N.O.W. Utah office, praised multi-wife polygamy as an alternative for feminists, an idea that was a few years ago denounced by N.O.W. as slavery.

Joseph lives informally in such an arrangement with her husband, six co-wives, and 20 children; some wives stay home, and others work. Said George, "We fight for lesbian families and single-parent families. I don't know why we wouldn't support this."

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Pope Condemns
The Associated Press

October 4, 1997

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- Striking a familiar theme, Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to join in common defense against what he described as secular threats to the family.

Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 people on the second day of his visit to the world's largest Roman Catholic country, the pope condemned abortion, sex outside marriage and gay marriage, saying the church cannot recognize sexual "diversity'' within marriage.

These dangers to the family were emblematic of a world that has turned its back on the sacred, the pope said.

"Conjugal fidelity and the respect for life in all the phases of its existence are subverted by a culture that does not admit the transcendence of man created in the image and likeness of God,'' he said.

Those who scrutinize the 77-year-old pontiff's every gesture for indications of the current state of his health couldn't help but be buoyed today.

Leaving the convention hall after his address, the pope surprised throngs of onlookers by walking past the car waiting to drive him 100 yards to a helicopter and strode the rest of the way with only the aid of a silver-handled cane.

On his way to the meeting with the President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who earlier this year became the first sitting Brazilian president to visit the pope in the Vatican, John Paul made an unscheduled stop near one of Rio's notorious slums. The papal motorcade stopped for a few minutes at the edge of the Sumare "favela," or shantytown, where thousands of people -- many of them children -- were lined up hoping to see the pope. John Paul wasted no time in offering his diagnosis of Brazil's social ills. He condemned the huge gap between rich and poor in a country where 10 percent of the population holds 65 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 40 percent have just 12 percent.

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Pardon Sought for
Wartime Witch
by Cliff Walker

February 2, 1998

London -- The last woman to be jailed for witchcraft in Britain may be given a pardon -- more than 40 years after her death, officials said Saturday. Helen Duncan was jailed for nine months in 1944 under the 1735 witchcraft act for claiming to have conjured up the spirit of a dead sailor. The sinking of the sailor's ship was, at the time, a state secret. Authorities claimed they believed Duncan was a wartime security risk, fearing she might "see" and reveal details of the forthcoming D-Day landings in France.

British Interior Minister Jack Straw is now prepared to consider a pardon for the woman who was convicted at London's Old Bailey court. Duncan was jailed under an act that abolished the practice of drowning, hanging or burning women convicted of consorting with the devil, but retained lesser penalties for the offence. Duncan supporters are using the 100th anniversary of Duncan's birth to campaign for a posthumous pardon.

Duncan is said to have conjured up the spirit of a sailor from HMS Barham who allegedly told a seance: "My ship has sunk." The navy had suppressed news of the ship's sinking off Malta. The case attracted throngs in the court's public gallery and made Duncan the most famous spiritualist of the day. Police, however, said she was "an unmitigated humbug who could only be regarded as a pest."

Outraged, Prime Minister Winston Churchill dismissed the case as "obsolete tomfoolery to the detriment of the necessary work in the court." In 1951, Churchill was instrumental in repealing the witchcraft act. The current Fraudulent Mediums Act covers cases of deception, carrying penalties of up to two years in prison or fines of up to $816.

The London Times reported that supporters seeking her pardon said they contacted Duncan at a seance and asked if she supported their campaign. The spiritualist is said to have told them: "It seems to matter a great deal more down there than it does up here" -- wherever "up here" is.

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Sauvie's Island* Religion
by Woody Johnson

November, 1993

Vinton, Louisiana -- Police arrested 20 naked Pentecostals on a pilgrimage to Florida after a car crash ended a brief chase. The judge -- and the police -- never quite got to the bottom of why the Pentecostals were all nude and riding in one car.

At their hearing the judge said, "I'm relying on the statement [that] you were told to do so by some higher being."

City prosecutors agreed to dismiss criminal charges if the pilgrims would pay $975 to fix a damaged fence and telephone pole. The pilgrims were relased to the custody of a local church.

* Sauvie's Island hosts one of several Portland, Oregon, nude beaches.

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Virgin Mary World Tour
by Chuck Shepherd

August 1, 1997

Virgin Mary World Tour (apparitions): December, 1996, Clearwater, Florida: plate glass window of finance company; December, 1996, Lewis, Kansas: wall of family home; April, 1997, Sunnyside, Washington: roadside sign; June, 1997, Gradina, Croatia: cluster of trees; June, 1997, Mexico City: stain in floor of Hidalgo subway station.

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Statue With Erection
Stays, Despite
Church's Protest
by Woody Johnson

November, 1993

Arnhem, The Netherlands -- The Arnhem town council declined a church's request to move or remove a life-sized statue of a nude man sporting a conspicuous erection. The church is offended that the sculpture stands across from its recreation area. The statue peroidically squirts red fluid from its ears, nose, nipples, and penis.

The town council wrote: "The positive reaction that we have received shows that many people, young and old, appreciate the work and find it amusing."

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With Vegetables
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

On the tourist-haven island of Phuket, Thailand, the puzzlingly-named Vegetarian Festival is held each year as the scene of spectacular demonstrations of self-mutilation as tributes to Chinese gods and spirits.

This year, the typical piercer took a quarter-inch steel rod through one cheek; others were pierced through the cheek and other parts of the body with such objects as a samurai sword, an umbrella, and a lamp.

Participants usually abstain from meat, alcohol, and sex for nine days before the piercing, then try to put themselves into trances to block out the pain.

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Church Distances Itself
From Pro-Life Activist
by Cliff Walker

November, 1993

The Roman Catholic Church has ordered pro-life activist David Trosch to "recant or resign." Trosch created a newspaper advertisement condoning the murder of abortion doctors.

The Mobile (Alabama) Register refused to run the ad, captioned "Justifiable Homicide," which showed a man pointing a gun at a doctor holding a knife standing over a pregnant woman.

In an interview Trosch declared, "If 100 doctors need to die to save more than 1 million babies a year, I see it as a fair trade."

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Church Indifferent
to Atrocities
by Cliff Walker

May, 1994

Fall River, Massachusetts -- The local Catholic diocese which is the former home of Father Porter -- a priest convicted of abusing 28 Massachusetts children -- has shown profound indifference to the molestations. A cartoon in the diocesan newspaper depicted a psychiatrist's receptionist asking, "How much abuse can you afford to remember?" The doctor's rate card lists $10,000 for abuse by a parent, $20,000 by a teacher, and $30,000 by a priest. The card adds, "Specialty memories: price on request."

The Catholic Church has paid almost half a billion dollars in damages and settlements in the Potter case.

Church officials have apologized to Father Porter's victims.

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Popularity of
Hymns Explained
by Woody Johnson

January, 1995

A British church music expert finds modern hymns rife with double entendres that likely escape the average choir member.

Dr. Donald Webster, fellow of the Royal College of Organists, holder of the Archbishop of Canterbury's diploma in church music, is author of the less-than-best-selling The Hymn Explosion and Its Aftermath.

Dr. Webster rails against the increasing appearance of such lurid lyrics as "I can come no other way / Take me deeper into you." Says Webster, "One is nauseated by the profanity of it. These hymns lend themselves to the kind of microphone-licking and hip-swaying gestures you see on 'Top of the Pops.'"

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Promise Keepers
Spotted at Strip Joint
by Conrad Goeringer

October 17, 1997

After the giant Promise Keepers rally in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago, with calls for "repentance" and "submission" still echoing in our heads, we speculated as to whether or not local massage parlors, saloons, houses of ill repute and other purveyors of forbidden delights experienced any surge of business.

It appears that the night prior to the "Sacred Assembly," a group of men wearing Promise Keepers badges popped into a local strip joint named Joanna's 1819 Club. The dozen or so men were described in a Washington Post story as being "well behaved," but apparently interested in the six or seven of the performers.

A Post reporter queried Steve Chavis, National Communications Director of Promise Keepers, who mused: "Who is to say what the reason behind the situation is?" Chavis then considered his words further, and suggested that, "A lot of guys don't have it all together, and sexual temptation is rampant among men..."

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Inmate Allowed to Drink
Sacramental Wine
by Cliff Walker

April, 1994

It isn't worth the legal costs for the Colorado prison system to determine if rules against inmate use of intoxicants extended to consecrated wine. Thus, the prison agreed to let a "devout Episcopalian" take sacramental wine during Eucharist services at a local church, so long as he would also take drug and alcohol tests after Mass whenever officials requested

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Satan In Jail

Prison Allows Satanic Ritual
by Cliff Walker

January, 1995

Imprisoned kidnapper Robert James Howard convinced a federal judge that the First Amendment grants him the religious right to perform satanic rituals.

Authorities in Denver, Colorado, were less than pleased with this decision, requiring them to equip the prison with the pariphernalia of yet another religion.

The services cannot be held at 2:00 A.M., as requested, and an official said, "We won't allow any bloodletting or animal sacrifices." He added that the prison was looking for a gong, "wherever you get one of those these days."

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Classified Ad For
Omniscient Beings?
by Laurie Gerholz

December 1, 1995

The enclosed ad appeared in the Classifieds (personals section) of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today (12/1/95). It just struck me as interesting that some of the persons the ad is addressed to are reputed to be omniscient, so why would they need (or want!) to read the Classifieds?


God, Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit,
all the saints & angles, especially
St. Anthony & St. Jude for
answering our prayers for our Dad
& Husband during this trying time.
(signed) LM, DM, MM

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Falwell's 'Old Time
Gospel Hour' Pulled
by Woody Johnson

November, 1994

A Jacksonville, Florida, TV station pulled the plug on the Reverend Jerry Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour" because of the explicitness of Falwell's attacks against President Clinton. Falwell continues to rail against the charges of gubernatorial philandering alleged against Clinton.

A few parents became concerned when their youngsters began to ask questions about oral sex.

Station managers said they might resume the broadcast if the reverend sticks to the business of popular religion.

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Heard This One Before?

Murderous Preacher
Begs for Mercy
United Press International

February 4, 1998

Sanford, Florida (UPI) -- Former televangelist George Crossley, convicted two months ago of hiring a hit man to kill the estranged husband of his lover, is pleading for mercy.

At a court hearing, his sentencing was postponed until February 10 after prosecutors told the judge Crossley deserves more than probation because he never apologized or admitted wrongdoing in trying to have George Waldo killed.

When Waldo found out about the affair his wife was having with Crossley, he began publicly badgering the minister and complaining about the affair to Crossley's supervisors.

In a two-minute statement to the judge, Crossley never apologized to Waldo, nor did he accept responsibility for the crimes.

The prosecution is asking for a sentence of eight-and-a-half years, while Crossley's attorney is asking for a sentence of time served for the five months Crossley spent in jail before and during the trial.

Before his arrest in July 1996, the 56-year-old Crossley was one of the most powerful conservative Christian broadcasters in central Florida.

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John Paul II Reverses
Church's Position
on Death Penalty
by Cliff Walker

May, 1993

Pope John Paul II has asked the world's governments to spare prisoners on death row, marking the first time a pontiff has formally expressed opposition to capital punishment. In 1955, Pope Pius XII said that the state should decide whatever punishments it deemed necessary for its citizens, but John Paul II now "recommends clemency or pardon for those who are condemned to death for political reasons."

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Americans More Likely
to Believe in Hell, Devil
by Cliff Walker

May, 1993

According to a survey conducted in nine Western countries, Americans are twice as likely as Europeans to believe in hell and the Devil. The study, in which more than 1200 people have been questioned since 1978, indicated that belief in sin was highest (91 percent) in Northern Ireland and lowest (29 percent) in Denmark.

However, the Irish held the rosiest view of mankind, with 34 percent of those polled believing that people were basically good. Only five percent of the French took that optimistic position.

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