City council: Mayor didn't act as mayor in banning Satan from town
Regular Weblog readers will remember the story of Carolyn Risher, the mayor of Inglis, Florida, who on Halloween banned Satan and other demonic forces from her town. After media attention and inevitable pressure from the ACLU, the town has backed down from the declaration. The Town Commission voted Monday night that Risher's declaration was "the work of an individual, not a town official, because it was never authorized, despite being on town stationery," reports the St. Petersburg Times. The ACLU is appeased. "This takes care of it nicely," said one of the group's lawyers observing the controversy. But the issue isn't totally taken care of; the town is now divided between Christians angry at the commission's withdrawal from the statement and those who feel ridiculed. "We're getting a lot of media attention lately, and it's made the town the dang laughingstock of the country," says commissioner Floyd Craig, who says he's challenging Risher as mayor next year. A St. Petersburg Times editorial expressed similar discomfort:

No one doubts the sincerity of Mayor Carolyn Risher when she says she wants to protect the residents of Inglis from evil. … But now her actions have brought more than ridicule to the community; they've also brought the imminent threat of a lawsuit that could cost taxpayers money and credibility. … People from all over the globe have had a laugh at Inglis' expense. We're confident Risher never meant for that to happen. But this situation no longer can be brushed off as a harmless, amusing eccentricity by a well-intentioned church lady. … Risher should seek the forgiveness of any residents she may have offended and assure everyone she will not allow her religious beliefs to supersede her responsibility as a public servant.

Study: Herod died of chronic kidney disease, Fournier's gangrene

The distemper seized upon his whole body, and greatly disordered all its parts with various symptoms; for there was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical turnouts about his feet, and an inflammation of the abdomen, and a putrefaction of his privy member, that produced worms. Besides which he had a difficulty of breathing upon him, and could not breathe but when he sat upright, and had a convulsion of all his members, insomuch that the diviners said those diseases were a punishment upon him.

So wrote the Jewish historian Josephus about the death of Herod the Great, the Roman appointed king of Judea who brought all sorts of nice things to Palestine but also tried to kill the infant Jesus. Encyclopedia Britannica notes, "In his last years Herod suffered from arteriosclerosis. … He was in great pain and in mental and physical disorder. He altered his will three times and finally disinherited and killed his firstborn, Antipater. The slaying, shortly before his death, of the infants of Bethlehem was wholly consistent with the disarray into which he had fallen. After an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Herod died." But exactly how did he die? Jan Hirschmann, physician at the University of Washington's School of Medicine, thinks he knows: "When I first looked at the general diseases that cause itching, it became clear that most of them couldn't explain a majority of the features of Herod's illness," Hirschmann tells The Jerusalem Post. "At first, I considered Hodgkin's disease and some diseases of the liver. … I finally concluded that the most likely explanation was that his chronic kidney disease was complicated by an unusual infection of the male genitalia called Fournier's gangrene." The BBC reports that the National Kidney Research Fund has its doubts. "The National Kidney Research Fund is unable to conclusively confirm that King Herod died from chronic kidney disease, although many of the symptoms the ruler displayed are common among kidney patients," said a spokesman. New Scientist notes, "Only about 500 cases of Fournier's gangrene have been recorded in the medical literature. It is caused when Staphylococcus, Streptococcus or E. coli bacteria infects and starts to rapidly kill cells, turning tissue black."

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The dignosis is all part of the fun at the Clinical Pathologic Conference, which in past years has examined the deaths of Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander the Great, Ludwig van Beethoven, General George Custer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Claudius. Weblog is glad to be sitting in an office scanning newspaper Web sites (though I could have done without the images of Fournier's gangrene I turned up in an online search, thank you very much).

Flier mire
School officials at DuPont-Tyler Middle School in Hermitage, Tennessee, say they've made a mistake. A flier advertising a Christian club called First Priority was unconstitutional. Did it say "This school only believes in the Christian God of the Bible"? No. Did it say "Your child is not welcome here unless he or she has been washed in the blood of the Lamb"? No. The Tennessean explains: "The flier has big type that proclaims, 'The Day That Changed Dupont-Tyler!' and displays the school's name in two other places." Horrors! "I'm trying to be fair," parent Mary Chapman told the paper, "but I still have a problem with it because it had the school name on it. It sounds like an endorsement." Coming up, fliers that say, "Please come to our club. We can't tell you where it meets, but maybe some other kid will tell you where—but don't ask on school grounds during regular school hours, please. That's unconstitutional."

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More articles



  • Black ministers start schools to fill in gaps | At wits' end over the slow pace of school reform and the widening gap in educational achievement between cities and suburbs, African-American parents in major urban areas are turning to what has long been the institutional cornerstone of inner-city communities - the churches - as their last, best hope for change (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Contrary OCC professor back | Students seem oblivious to bait (Los Angeles Times)

Church and state:

  • Texas officials' pre-meeting prayers draw complaints | One resident claims county commissioners are being insensitive, intolerant of other religions during invocations. (Associated Press)

  • Religious groups expect compromise on day care | Yielding to religious objections, a Florida lawmaker is backing off her drive to place church-run child-care centers under state regulation, lobbyists for religious groups say (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Who needs the church? | The idea that we live in an "Orthodox country" has been repeated so many times that it is lodged in our consciousness. Few stop to consider that it fundamentally contradicts the constitution. (Boris Kagarlitsky, The Moscow Times)

Religion and politics:

  • A walk in the valley of greed | What would Jesus do? Heck, according to the teachings of the Rev. Pat Robertson, he'd be out there just like Ralph Reed and George Bush serving God and greed—or rather Mammon—in the same moment. (Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times)

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Church life:

  • Faith goes the distance | Migrants working in Northeast Ohio give money to build church back in homeland of Guatemala (The Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio)

  • Final gathering at two chapels | Parishioners of celebrated their last Masses at two Baltimore chapels, which no longer justified the assignment of priests, the archdiocese said. (The Baltimore Sun)

  • A resilient congregation worships without a home | On Sunday, for the first time since the congregation was formed in 1909, its members were without a home. But a fellow Methodist congregation a few miles north took Scott Memorial United Methodist Church in from the ashes. (Detroit Free Press)

  • Spirits soar as church is raised | Mennonites from across U.S. build Westcliffe house of worship (The Denver Post)

Other articles of interest:

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