Canadian evangelical on trial in Lebanon for spying
Bruce Balfour went to Lebanon to replant the country's biblical cedars. He's now on trial on charges of spying for Israel against Hizbollah guerrillas and the Lebanese army.
"I expect him to be found innocent because there is no serious evidence against him," his lawyer, Ibrahim al-Hariri, told Reuters. "This is not a judicial trial, it is ideological."
The trial has been postponed several times since his July 10 arrest as the prosecution has attempted to "find" witnesses.
Many officials in the Canadian government and many Canadian evangelicals are outraged by the arrest. (Balfour's organization has many past news articles on its site)
The next hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, when the military tribunal is expected to issue a verdict. Balfour faces three to 15 years of hard labor.
Andrei Okhotin likely to go free this week
Meanwhile, similarly trumped up charges against Harvard Divinity School student and Baptist missionary Andrew Okhotin continue to be discussed in a Moscow court.
The 28-year-old is charged with smuggling $48,000 into the country. He declared the money—intended for local Baptist churches and ministries—on a form, but mistakenly walked down the wrong customs corridor at the airport. He says customs agents only arrested him after he refused their demands for bribes of $10,000 and $5,000.
The prosecution's argument is so weak that it backed down from seeking a five-year sentence. Yesterday, prosecutors asked only for a six-month suspended sentence.
But Okhotin says it's the money, not his freedom that he's concerned about. "I would like to ask you to give the money back," he told the court yesterday. "It doesn't matter what decision you will make about me."
A verdict is expected tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. (2 a.m. EST).
No exodus yet
The Ten Commandments showdown at the Alabama judicial building yesterday sounds a bit anticlimactic. Nearly two dozen protesters supporting the monument were arrested on trespassing charges. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's request to stop the removal. And U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson, who has ordered the monument's removal, is meeting with his attorneys today to decide whether to fine the state $5,000 a day for keeping the monument where it is. The showdown continues. Meanwhile, here's the media coverage:
- Jurist defies deadline on monument | $5,000-a-day fines may begin (The Washington Post)
- Also: Alabama judge defiant on commandments' display | Hundreds applauded Chief Justice Roy Moore's refusal to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the State Supreme Court (The New York Times)
- Commandments appeal fails | The Supreme Court refuses to intervene hours before a judicial deadline for removal of a religious display from a state building (Los Angeles Times)
- Court won't stop monument move | Twenty-two protesters, part of a group that has vowed to block removal of the monument by civil disobedience, were arrested after refusing to leave the court building and jailed on trespassing charges (The Birmingham News)
- Also: Protesters removed, monument stays (Montgomery Advertiser)
- Circuit judge gives chamber a look at Moore case possibilities | They may not be as emotionally involved as the general public, but judges find the whirlwind around Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore's 10 Commandments monument just as fascinating (The Birmingham News)
- Prayer rally at courthouse here to support display of biblical law | Demonstrators support Ten Commandments displays in Lucas County Courthouse, and in Alabama (Toledo Blade)
Editorial and opinion on Alabama monument showdown:
- Test of courage | Other state officials must act if Moore will not (Editorial, The Birmingham News)
- Justices must ensure order in Alabama | The associate justices know full well that they cannot afford to stand by in tacit endorsement of Moore's defiance (Editorial, Tuscaloosa News)
- Justices must find mettle to intervene | Perhaps those justices who failed to vote to move the monument agree with Moore that he is above the law of the land. Or perhaps they just don't have the political courage to step into this fray. Sadly, it's hard to know which is worse. (Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser)
- Beyond fight-or-flight | Now that the feds have been aggressive, should Christians respond with belligerence? (Marvin Olasky)
- The dolorous Passion of Mad Max | Christians are hypocritical by supporting The Passion when they criticized The Last Temptation of Christ (Lynn Coady, The Globe and Mail, Toronto) [NOTE: You have to read this article simply for the "oh my goodness, I can't believe how clueless she is" factor]
- Mel Gibson, we have a problem | Could it be that this is a very Catholic, a very medieval Catholic, interpretation of the death of Yeshua? (Michael Coren, National Post)
- Divided over "The Passion" | The furor over Mel Gibson's film is threatening the fledgling pro-Israel alliance between evangelical Christians and key Jewish groups (Salon.com)
- A case of premature passion? | In the end it may be that the movie is an anti-Semitic screed. Yet I'm already thankful for The Passion (Geoffrey Dennis, The Dallas Morning News)
- Gibson's contentious 'Passion' | The biblical account of Jesus' life and death should not be sacrificed to political correctness. But the cry of "political correctness" can also become a cover for very real bigotry. (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)
- Gibson and the cross | Concerned that it's anti-Semitic and inaccurate, detractors are lining up against The Passion (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Passion play | The controversy over Mel Gibson's forthcoming movie on the death of Jesus Christ (Michael Novak, The Weekly Standard)
- The killing of Christ | What do the Gospels say, and why? (The Kansas City Star)
- Also: A sampling of early Christian anti-Semitism (The Kansas City Star)
- Earlier: Who killed Jesus? | After centuries of censure, Jews have been relieved of general responsibility for the death of Jesus. Now who gets the blame? (Christianity Today, April 9, 1990)
- Defusing the fury over Gibson's 'Passion' | It is definitely the most powerful film I have ever seen (Leo Linbeck III, Houston Chronicle)
Sex and marriage:
- The church puts the sin into single | Jesus was not married, so why are single women still stigmatised by Christians? (Kristin Aune, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Leave marriage to the states | A constitutional amendment is both unnecessary and needlessly intrusive and punitive, says the author of the Defense of Marriage Act (Bob Barr, The Washington Post)
- Gay marriages open gate to social stability | Moral opposition to it can coexist with federal or state statutes permitting it (Samuel G. Freedman, USA Today)
- Davis would sign domestic partners bill | The legislation would extend most of the legal rights of marriage to gays and lesbians. Critics say the governor is seeking votes (Los Angeles Times)
- Our city's tolerance can have surprising limits | I can't understand how, in a city like this, we could still be having conversations about "the immorality of gay marriage" (Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times)
- Poll: Majority favors ban on gay marriage | More than half of Americans favor a law barring gay marriage and are opposed to allowing civil unions that could provide gay couples with the same benefits as marriage, an Associated Press poll found (Associated Press)
- Family values groups gear up for battle over gay marriage | Focus on the Family, the country's largest international Christian "family values" organization, and other conservative religious groups believe the battle over gay marriage cuts to the heart of what defines their beliefs (The Washington Post)
- Same-sex union proposal is a tough sell in Poland | Legislation faces influential church (Chicago Tribune)
- The moral challenge that the church faces | To Kenya's Christian clerics, the notion of buggering their lord's sheep is repulsive (Ambrose Murunga, The Nation, Kenya)
- Also: Gays in the pulpit, God in his heaven? | Spiritual principles remain constant from the beginning to the end of creation (Michael Okema, The East African, Kenya)
- The fires of intolerance | A local Episcopal rector walked on his church's flag to protest ordination of a gay bishop (Fort Worth Weekly, Tex.)
- Protestant churches split on ordaining gay clerics | Contentious debate creates deep divisions (The Detroit News)
- A church divided | Episcopalian pastors and parishioners wrestle with pro-gay actions (The Kentucky Post)
- Catholicism—isn't that a gay thing? | American Catholic priests are five or 10 times as likely to be homosexual as ordinary American men (Spengler, Asia Times)
- A religious experience | One of Edinburgh's most famous churches risks courting more than a smidgeon of controversy by hosting an adults-only show entitled "100% Sex Therapy" as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (The Scotsman)
- Bishop to parishioners: I'm sorry for porn images | Boyd critics say they feel vindicated (Grand Forks Herald, N.D.)
- A summer of advances for gays | In court, church, media acceptance has been swift (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Sodomy charges set to be pursued | Prosecutors plan to pursue sodomy charges against 26 men despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legal experts say invalidates Virginia's antisodomy law (Associated Press)
- The Church of England takes another hit | Between the Roman Catholic Church unleashing its considerable ire toward gay marriage and the fuss over impending schism in the Episcopalian Church resulting from the ordination of a gay bishop, a story that provides a nice gloss on both issues got lost. And that's last week's news that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are officially living together (Anne Kingston, National Post, Canada)
- Clergymen disagree with Tutu | Local church leaders yesterday differed with South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu's views on homosexuality and asked Kenyans to ignore them (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)
- Open interpretation | The statement, "It's in the Bible," is not an argument against homosexuality (Rovan Wernsdorfer, The Baltimore Sun)
- 'How to be Gay' course draws fire at Michigan | A family-values lobbyist is leading public opposition to the self-proclaimed "uncompromising political militancy" of the professor who teaches "/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender" (The Washington Times)
- Lutherans won't delay gay rulings | Church decisions still set for 2005 (Chicago Tribune)
- Suspect charged with church burglaries | Dozens of break-ins took place in five counties (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Tip helps deputies make vandalism arrest | "Basically, he's against Christianity," police say of Karl Freudenberger Monday, charged with vandalizing and damaging churches (The Tampa Tribune)
- Priest charged in theft of $400,000 | Keystone pastor accused of aiding mistress, family (The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)
- Jury convicts minister of two murders | Henry Hayes is found guilty of killing his wife and their 7-year-old daughter in 1999 (Los Angeles Times)
- Let judges use their judgment | Efforts to sway sentencing practices are dangerous (Editorial, Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.)
- Vandalism common at church | Vandalism at the Church of the Mystic Light is nothing new but its pastor hold no malice toward the perpetrators. (Mt. Olive Chronicle, N.J.)
Faith and spirituality:
- New study looks at religion over a lifetime | There have been studies on religion, but each has been with a random sample of people. The thing that is new about this study is that it will begin with a random sample of 25-hundred people who will be contacted every three years for at least 30 years. (KUHF, Houston)
- Europe suffering values crisis, Pope says | Expresses hope that the addition of 10 more countries to the European Union next year would be an occasion for the continent's renewal (Associated Press)
- Also: Pope: Enlargement is a fresh spiritual source (EU Observer)
- Germany still divided—by faith | As the German saying goes, there was only one thing the Communists accomplished in their part of the country—driving out God (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)
- How are American Christians living their faith? | Of the approximately 1,500 Americans interviewed for this survey, 80% identified themselves as Christians. But though 38% of Americans currently say they've attended church in the last seven days, how does their faith influence their worldview and behavior in other areas of their lives? (Gallup News Service)
- Bishop raps Christians on morals | The president of the Anglican Communion (Church) in Nigeria, Bishop Peter Akinola, has cautioned Christians in the country against identifying with what he called the "American way of life" (The Daily Trust, Abuja, Nigeria)
- Israeli law targets 'mixed' families | More than 20,000 Arab families face the agonizing choice of breaking up or leaving Israel after passage of a law banning Palestinian spouses of Israelis from obtaining citizenship or residence permits (The Washington Times)
- Israeli pits U.S. politics against 'road map' plan | Israeli tourism minister Benyamin Elon has embarked on a "Bible Belt tour" to exploit evangelical Christian enthusiasm for Israel, to lure Christian tourists back to Israel and to derail President Bush's "road map" to Middle East peace (The Washington Times)
- Auxiliary bishop named for Hebrew speakers | Jean-Baptiste Gourion, 68, will provide pastoral care for the growing number of non-Palestinian Catholics now living in Israel (Los Angeles Times)
- Christians split over Bush, peace process | A split is emerging among influential pro-Israel Evangelical Christians over the American-backed plan for Middle East peace, sparking debate over whether the issue could cut into President Bush's support in 2004 (Forward)
Other religions and interfaith relations:
- Where's Saddam? Ask his sorcerer | Deposed dictator is said to have believed in wizardry, which thrives in Iraq. Hussein's guide to the supernatural asks 'genies' about his fate (Associated Press)
- Interfaith movement is key to world harmony | A worldwide struggle is raging over what kind of religion will prevail during the 21st century — an exclusive or fundamentalist approach that sees one religion as possessing the whole truth, or a pluralist version that acknowledges and welcomes many sources of truth (Benjamin J. Hubbard, Los Angeles Times)
- A match made in heaven | The Baha'is and Baptists have been meeting weekly this summer to make connections that overcome religious and racial barriers (Austin American-Statesman, Tex.)
- The Christian-Muslim divide | Christians have tended to respond in one of two ways: Some want to learn about Islam and find common values, while others stress fundamental dangers in Islam that need to be confronted (The Wichita Eagle)
- Muslim, Jewish & Christian scholars, leaders confront barriers to peace | "Since April of this year more than 300 Christian pastors nationwide have removed the crosses from their churches, not denying the central place that the crucifixion plays in Christian belief, but recognizing that the cross symbolizes a history of religious intolerance, forced conversions, inquisitions, and even racism as used by white supremacists" (Press release, American Clergy Leadership Conference)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Salvation Army apologizes to victims of abuse | After the damaging scandals in the Catholic and Anglican Churches over the abuse of children, the Salvation Army has now issued an unreserved apology to those who were victims of abuse while in its care (AM, Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
- Boston archdiocese makes counterofffer | The attorneys made a counterproposal Monday to the Boston Archdiocese's offer to settle 542 lawsuits for $55 million. Victims' lawyers would not reveal how much money they are seeking or how far apart the two sides are. (Associated Press)
- Archdiocese is paying judge to assess files | The special jurist is deciding if records of priests accused of molestation should be given to prosecutors. All parties OKd the deal (Los Angeles Times)
- Conservative lay Catholics to hold summit | Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington are among those expected to attend (Associated Press)
- 2nd leader in parish is suspended over abuse | A top education official for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York has been suspended and barred from acting as an ordained deacon after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor 20 years ago (The New York Times)
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