Kinshasan Officials
Stage Curse of
Ugandan, Rwanda Troops
by Cliff Walker
from wore copy

October 28, 1998

Kinshasa -- In an attempt to foil enemy agents believed to be hiding near the capital, Traditional African chiefs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo invoked the spirits of the dead. At the request of Deputy Interior Minister Mulumba Katchi, himself a traditional chief, they danced, waved their arms and chanted in a ceremony Tuesday.

Broadcasting a film of the ceremony, the television said, "The Teke-Umbu chiefs cast a bad spell on the Rwandan-Ugandan aggressors during a curse ceremony at the Interior Ministry.... They promised to do everything in their powers to dislodge the aggressors still hidden in areas surrounding Kinshasa."

Uganda and Rwanda deny that they are backing rebels who started a war on August 2 to try to topple President Laurent Kabila.

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University Exorcises
Halloween Spirits
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

November 2, 1998

Beijing -- Students at the Beijing Foreign Language University were puzzled at the sight of two black-robed figures with green skeleton masks handing out flyers for a local bar's Halloween Party.

The silent specters drew a crowd and attracted security police who promptly hustled them away to the campus police office. "You can't practice your religion here," a senior plainclothes officer scolded them.

Forty-five minutes later, the two shaken Bulgarian students emerged and told Reuters it had taken 15 minutes to convince the police they were not passing out religious material.

"We wrote 'All Saint's Eve', in Chinese as the translation for Halloween, so I guess that's why he thought it was religious," said Georgiev.

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Books Have Souls?

Temple Members
Bury Burned Books
by Shirley Johns

June 25, 1999

Many of the books sitting in the library at Temple Beth Israel didn't survive an arsonist's flames last week. Thursday, congregation members came together to take those books and bury them as is required by Jewish Law. One report says the books are to be buried because they have a "soul."

A wall of letters shows the support the community has shown to the members of the three synagogues hit by the arsonists. Sacramento's Catholic Bishop William Weigand took part in the burial ceremony in a show of inter-faith solidarity with the fire victims. The Bishop also handed over a check for $10,000 to help with the reconstruction efforts.

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Sorcerer Intervenes
in Presidential Bid

June 25, 1999

La Plata, Argentina (Reuters) -- An Argentine sorcerer has cast a spell to lift a long-standing curse on the governors of Buenos Aires which, legend has it, stops them from becoming president of Argentina.

The magic was meant to help the present governor of Buenos Aires Province, Eduardo Duhalde, win the presidency. He is the candidate of President Carlos Menem's Peronist Party and his territory is home to a third of Argentina's 36 million people.

Hundreds of Duhalde supporters from the provincial capital La Plata gathered around a bonfire after midnight to watch self-styled "Peronist psychomentalist" Manuel Salazar exorcise the curse. No Buenos Aires governor has ever become president.

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Senate Majority Leader Lott
Calls Homosexuality a 'Sin'
by Alan Fram
Associated Press Writer

June 16, 1998

Washington (AP) -- An official of the nation's largest gay political group says Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is showing the right wing's influence by saying homosexuals should be helped "just like alcohol ... or sex addiction ... or kleptomaniacs."

"It's an indication of how the extreme right wing has a stranglehold on the leadership" of Congress, said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, the 250,000-member gay and lesbian political organization. "It's comments like that that show he is much more in step with extreme elements than any other."

Lott, R-Miss., made his remarks while taping an interview for "The Armstrong Williams Show" on the America's Voice television network.

During their interview, Williams asked Lott whether he considers homosexuality a sin and Lott replied, "Yeah, it is."

Lott added: "You should still love that person. You should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol ... or sex addiction ... or kleptomaniacs.

"There are all kinds of problems, addictions, difficulties, experiences of things that are wrong, but you should try to work with that person to learn to control that problem," he said.

The remarks thrust Lott into a controversy that has engulfed the scientific, gay and conservative communities: Whether homosexuals have chosen their sexual orientation or whether it is biologically predetermined.

Many in the gay community say homosexuality is predetermined by biology. Some conservatives and other groups believe homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and have searched for a "cure" for being gay.

Conservative leaders like James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, have met in recent weeks with Lott and other congressional leaders, urging them to push for conservative priorities, including a tax reduction for many married couples.

Such meetings "may explain why he hasn't scheduled time for the nomination of James Hormel," Stachelberg said.

Hormel is a San Francisco philanthropist and Democratic Party donor whom President Clinton nominated last year to be ambassador to Luxembourg. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination in November, but it has been stalled ever since.

Earlier this month on CNN's "Late Edition" show, Lott said for the first time that he opposes Hormel's nomination, viewing him as an aggressive advocate of the gay lifestyle. As majority leader, Lott largely controls the Senate's agenda.

Stachelberg also said Lott is "out of step" with scientific studies of the causes of homosexuality.

Following the lead of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association declared in 1975 that it no longer considered homosexuality a mental disorder. Some scientific studies have found differences between the genes and brain structures of homosexual and heterosexual people.

Lott spokeswoman Susan Irby declined to comment on Stachelberg's remarks.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Zoo Animals Eat Kosher
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

April 9, 1998

Jerusalem -- Taking enforced religion to its logical extreme, Jews will make the animals at Jerusalem's biblical zoo have a kosher Passover. Zookeepers said that levened bread would be taken off the animals' menu in line with a religious prohibition against eating leavened baked goods during the week-long Jewish holiday which begins on Friday.

Although Jewish religious law applies only to humans, zoo director Shai Doron thought some visitors might be offended watching animals eat bread.

Although bread is the favorite dessert of hippos and elephants, he says, "they'll get hay instead. They're happy. It makes life interesting for them."

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Roman Catholic Indulgences:
They're Ba-a-ack!
by Conrad Goeringer

November 30, 1998

There's the 30-year mortgage, debit cards and banking by phone. Now, the Roman Catholic Church has brought back a practice which even many of its followers had consigned to the historical dustbin as both obsolete thinking and an embarrassment, even an overt expressionism of greed and commercialism, which the playwright Geoffrey Chaucer had mocked in "The Canterbury Tales."

On Sunday, Pope John Paul II officially declared the year 2000 as a "Great Jubilee" for believers, and announced that God would be honoring "indulgences" -- credit earned toward punishment time in purgatory (a realm which the Vatican teaches is almost as unpleasant as hell, but only temporary in its duration). With the exception of saints (who presumably take an express track to heaven), all Catholics, including clerics and the most sanctimonious, must serve some time in purgatory for their sins.

Pope John Paul's pronouncement, a "Bull," is considered the highest form of rule that the Vatican can issue. Titled the Jubilee Year Bull of Indiction, it calls upon Roman Catholics to make a "pious pilgrimage" to Rome, Jerusalem or other designated "holy sites," as well as pray, confess their sins to a cleric, and perform certain charitable works. The second part of the Bull, considered an appendix, outlines how penitents can "commute" sentences of suffering in purgatory for themselves or others. These acts of "penitential spirit" include abstaining for booze or smoking for a day, contributing money to the poor, or by contributing to "activities benefiting the community."

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Job Fairs for
Prospective Priests?
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

April 30, 1998

Pittsburgh -- God calls, they tell us, but very few answer the call these days. The Rev. David Bonnar was one of eight priests ordained by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1988. This year, there may be two.

Pittsburgh, with 371 active priests compared with 467 just 10 years ago, isn't alone. Across the nation, for every 100 men enrolled in Catholic seminaries in 1965, there are only 40 today, said Dean Hoge, a sociology professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington. He blames the celibacy requirement for the decline. He estimates that enrollment would quadruple if priests were allowed to marry.

Catholics believe that men are called to the priesthood by God. Nevertheless, they're getting a little help from Rev. Bonnar, the director of vocations for the diocese, responsible for recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

The diocese says it is the responsibility of each parish to identify and encourage men to join the priesthood. Priests and seminarians visit schools and parishes to share their experiences in a sort of job fair situation. The diocese also produced a video for men of high school and college age detailing the priestly life.

Is Bonnar panicking? He denies this, even though Pittsburgh's 218 parishes "can always use more hands and more hearts."

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Judge Wouldn't Give
Him a New Lawyer

Man Who Blamed Alien
Gets New Trial
by Paul Davenport
Associated Press Writer

November 12, 1998

Phoenix (AP) -- The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the murder convictions and death sentence of a man who admitted killing two women but said space aliens were in control of him at the time.

The ruling means that Robert Joe Moody is entitled to a new trial for the 1993 separate robbery-murders of two friends, Michelle Malone, 33, and Patricia Magda, 56.

Moody, 39, claimed his involvement in the crimes was involuntary because "extrasensory biological entities" were in control of his body and he was merely an unconscious observer of the murders.

Moody asked Superior Court Judge Howard Hantman before his 1995 trial to appoint him a new lawyer, saying he didn't trust his court-appointed attorney. Hantman refused and Moody ended up representing himself with assistance from his original public defender and later a different one.

Hantman's refusal to appoint a new defense lawyer violated Moody's constitutional right to representation, the Supreme Court said in a majority opinion signed by four justices.

The majority said there was evidence of a "deep and irreconcilable conflict" between Hantman and the defense lawyer beyond the lawyer's reluctance to advocate the space-aliens defense. Hantman had ruled that defense could not be argued because there was no evidence to support it.

Moody had asked to be executed, telling Hantman during his 1996 sentencing that the aliens would resurrect him and prove their existence.

Prosecutors said Moody killed to support a drug habit.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Haunted by 'Demons'

Mississippi Youth Guilty
of Killing Mom
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

June 8, 1998

Philadelphia -- Claiming he was haunted by "demons" with glowing red eyes, Mississippi schoolboy Luke Woodham was found guilty of stabbing and slashing his mother, Mary Woodham, 50, 18 times with a kitchen butcher knife. He did this only hours before he allegedly shot nine classmates. She died of stab wounds to the heart and lungs.

Woodham showed no emotion as Mississippi Circuit Judge Samac Richards immediately sentenced him to life in prison. He testified during the trial that he could remember going to get a knife and remembered taking it to his mother's bedroom, but he could not recall killing her. He did admit to the school slayings, for which he will stand trial next week.

Woodham's unsuccessfully lawyers sought to prove he was insane the day the crimes were committed. They also sought to shift blame by alleging that he acted under the influence of Grant Boyette, 19, the leader of a group known as the Kroth who faces complicity charges in the case.

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Rabbis Sued for
Breach of Confidentiality

November 21, 1998

New York (AP) -- A judge is letting an Orthodox Jewish woman sue two rabbis for allegedly revealing marital secrets, ruling that they may have violated a law protecting confidentiality with clergy.

"This was not only improper, it was outrageous and most offensive considering the status and statute of these defendants in the community," Supreme Court Justice David Goldstein ruled last week.

Chani Lightman, 38, had gone to rabbis Tzvi Flaum and David Weinberger in 1995 to discuss her unhappy marriage. After she filed for divorce and sought custody of her four children, the rabbis started talking to her husband's lawyers, the lawsuit alleges.

Mrs. Lightman alleges that Flaum and Weinberger told her husband, Dr. Hylton Lightman, that she felt unfulfilled in their marriage and had stopped the monthly ritual purification baths that Orthodox Jewish law requires women to take.

They also revealed was that she was "seeing a man in a social setting" while still married, said her lawyer, Daniel Schwartz.

Mrs. Lightman's divorce from her 45-year-old husband, filed in February 1996, is pending. He has won temporary custody of their children.

Franklyn Snitow, a lawyer for the two rabbis, asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages. He said the rabbis had a religious obligation to share the information with the divorce court. At issue, they said, was a mother's ability to raise her children in accordance with Orthodox laws.

Instead, Goldstein said the rabbis may have violated clergy-penitent privilege established under the law, and the judge ruled the case can proceed.

"No member of the clergy," he said, "would dare breach the sanctity of his or her office to make public the type of confidential, private disclosures at issue in this case."

Snitow said he would appeal.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Court Rejects Appeal
by Chruch Against Schools
by Laurie Asseo
Associated Press Writer

June 24, 1999

Washington (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to require a public school in New York to rent its building to a church congregation for Sunday worship services.

The court, without comment, rejected an appeal in which lawyers for the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Far Rockaway, N.Y., argued the school unlawfully discriminates against religion by allowing its building to be used after hours for non-religious purposes but not for worship.

The congregation sought to rent an elementary school's auditorium, classrooms and cafeteria for worship services each Sunday in June 1994 after deciding it needed more room for its growing membership.

School officials refused to rent to the congregation, citing its policy and a state law that bar religious worship services in public schools.

The school allows community groups such as the American Legion to rent space for after-hours activities. School officials also said religious services were mistakenly allowed several times before late 1994, when officials revised approval procedures.

The Full Gospel Tabernacle sued in federal court, saying school officials violated the church's right to free speech and free exercise of religious beliefs.

A federal judge ruled against the church, relying on a 1998 decision in which the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to force a Bronx public school to rent its building for worship services.

The judge said excluding worship services was reasonable and did not violate the church's free-speech rights. The 2nd Circuit court upheld that ruling.

In the appeal acted on Thursday, the church's lawyers said the policy amounted to "blatant anti-religious discrimination," adding that the Constitution requires government to be neutral -- not hostile -- toward religion.

The school district's lawyers said adoption of the church's argument would mean that a school that opened its doors to public discussion of any subject also would have to allow religious services.

The case is Full Gospel Tabernacle vs. Community School District 27, 98-1714.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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Hastert a CC Favorite

December 24, 1998

Washington (AP) -- The presumed next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert of Illinois, is a graduate of Wheaton College, a prominent Evangelical school, and earned a 100 percent rating in the most recent voter guide from Christian Coalition, the religious right lobby.

The 15 House votes in the organization's ratings covered such issues as abortion, homosexuality, public needle exchanges, religious persecution overseas, aid for private school families, funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a proposed religion amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Two continuing members of the House Republican leadership, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, also posted 100 percent ratings with the Christian Coalition. And so did outgoing Speaker Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, who was in line to succeed Gingrich until he announced plans to resign from the House Saturday.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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