Michael Marcavage becomes just another guy with a bullhorn
"We are one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech," Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe declared today in dismissing charges against Repent America founder Michael Marcavage and three others accused of "ethnic intimidation," riot, and criminal conspiracy.

"Ethnic intimidation" in this case didn't have anything to do with ethnicity: That's Pennsylvania's name for its hate crime law—Marcavage and the others were protesting at the Outfest gay and lesbian festival last October. Marcavage said they were just reading Scripture and calling passsersby to repent. With a bullhorn. Oh, and refusing to obey police orders to move. In a recent newspaper interview, he reportedly said:

According to the Scriptures, it's the government's job to enforce God's law and to uphold his law, and the Bible talks about how, I don't want to really get into this — it'll make me sound like I'm crazy — but it does talk about how [homosexuals] are to be put to death. The wages of sin is death. But I want to make [it] clear that I'm not advocating the [independent] killing of homosexuals. … I'm saying that the government's duty is to uphold God's law. … I know that's harsh, but we have all broken the law, God's law, and we need to be held accountable.

After his arrest, Marcavage became a mini-celebrity among such groups as the American Family Association. But other groups, like Focus on the Family, gave his case little attention. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and even gay advocacy groups said the arrests were unconstitutional, wrong, and bad tactics. Most agreed that the charges stood no chance in the court system.

And now that the charges have been dismissed, this item moves from the "threats to freedom" file to "wacky news." Mr. Marcavage, your 15 minutes are up. The rest of us are going to go back to talking about the nature of sex and marriage like adults.

More articles

Free speech:

  • 'Family values' group's suit against city tossed | Judge: Free speech rights of workers forming religious organization weren't violated (The Oakland Tribune, Ca.)
  • Stop this folly now | There is no need to sacrifice free speech in order to protect British Muslims (Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, London)

Homosexuality:

  • Billboard painted with anti-gay slurs | A billboard promoting the message that gays and lesbians can change through Christianity was vandalized this week with slurs degrading homosexuals (The Galveston County Daily News, Tex.)
  • Archbishop's warning on gay split | The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned there can be no "cost-free outcome" over the divisive issue of homosexuality in the church (BBC)
  • Diocese of York rules out pro-gay primate | Pro-gay liberals have been virtually ruled out of the running to become the next archbishop of York, the second most senior post in the Church of England (The Telegraph, London)
  • The gay child left behind | The news that Maya Keyes, the daughter of Alan Keyes, is a lesbian was good news for gays and lesbians. Or was it? (Dan Savage, The New York Times)
  • Senate committee rejects adoption applicant questions | A Virginia Senate committee yesterday killed a bill that would have required state officials to report whether a person petitioning to adopt a child is "currently engaged in voluntary homosexual activity" (The Washington Post)
  • Gay rights debate about families | Some Maine columnists are disparaging me personally and belittling my Christian beliefs (Michael S. Heath, Portland Press Herald, Me.)

Same-sex marriage in Canada:

  • Canadian PM raps opponents over gay marriage bill | Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on Wednesday rapped opponents of a draft law to legalize gay marriage, saying they were wrongly trying to convince voters the measure could easily be overturned in the future (Reuters)
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  • Bitter attacks open debate on same-sex marriage | Conservative Leader Stephen Harper tried to paint Paul Martin's party with a legacy of intolerance as the same-sex-marriage debate began in Parliament, saying a Liberal government interned Japanese Canadians and closed the borders to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)
  • Martin, Harper face off over gay marriage bill as parliamentary debate begins (Canadian Press)
  • Pope-a-dope | The New Haven-based Knights of Columbus launches a border war with Canada over same-sex marriages (New Haven Advocate, Conn.)

Cloning:

  • Ian Wilmut: Human cloner | How the man who created Dolly the sheep slid down the slippery slope to human reproductive cloning (Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly Standard)
  • Harvard research on cloned embryos legal, Coakley says | Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said yesterday that Harvard University's current embryonic stem cell research and plans to create cloned human embryos are all legal under state law, and she released documents filed by the university describing its research (The Boston Globe)

Stem cells:

  • Personal pleas ring at stem cell hearing | Legislators weigh views on science and morality (The Boston Globe)
  • Supporters, critics wrangle over stem cell research proposal (Associated Press)
  • A climate of fear in the stem cell lab | While researchers in California gleefully contemplate how they will spend the $3 billion in stem cell funding recently approved by state voters, a dispiriting miasma has settled upon the rest of the stem cell community (David A. Shaywitz, The Boston Globe)
  • Stem cells' promise pits jobs vs. values | States have long worried about how far to go in attracting jobs, with the debate focused mainly on tax incentives and other corporate giveaways. Now, as states gamble billions on controversial stem cell research to attract coveted biotech jobs, they're confronting an issue rare in job development: moral values (USA Today)

Abortion:

  • New bill authorizes sale of Ohio anti-abortion plates | 'Choose life' sales to benefit nonprofit groups (WCMH, Columbus, Oh.)
  • Anti-abortion bill clears House | 'Trigger statute' does not contain exceptions for health, rape or incest (Associated Press)
  • As girls 'vanish,' Chinese city battles tide of abortions | Guiyang, China, has enacted a pioneering ban on abortions after the 14th week of pregnancy to try and address the gap between male and female childbirths (The New York Times)
  • YWCA, S-O-S: We aren't pro-abortion | Ensler, 'Vagina Monologues' playwright, to visit ND today (South Bend Tribune, Ind.)
  • Human tissue found in sewage spill near abortion clinic | Health department investigates (KPRC, Houston)
  • Rock on | Chris Rock hits on a profound truth. He has exposed a profound side effect of legalized abortion — the sexual mistreatment of women. (Dorinda Bordlee, National Review Online)

Abuse:

  • Jury to deliberate in priest's abuse trial | The jury in the trial of a former priest accused of molesting an altar boy got the case Wednesday but failed to reach a verdict after five hours of deliberations (Associated Press)
  • Statute of limitations targeted in abuse cases | Under Massachusetts law, rape cases must be brought within 15 years of the incident being reported to law enforcement or, in the case of a child, 15 years of the accuser's 16th birthday, whichever comes first (The Washington Post)
  • Priest to be arraigned in Chelsea today | Police say he asked woman, daughter at eatery for sex (The Boston Globe)
  • One priest is punished, but church's progress still lags | As spotlight fades, leadership's reform efforts do, too (Editorial, USA Today)
  • We're confronting problem | Efforts to combat abuse are ongoing and will expand further (Harry J. Flynn, USA Today)
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  • Priest's departure forced | The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich has asked a priest at St. Edmund's Retreat on Enders Island in Mystic to leave because of allegations of past sexual misconduct with minors (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)
  • 8 area priests accused in '04 | The Denver Roman Catholic archdiocese fielded child sex-abuse allegations in 2004 against eight priests who served within its 24-county boundary, according to a report made public as part of wide-ranging reforms that followed the national clergy-abuse crisis (The Denver Post)
  • New allegations against priests | Archdiocese audit of sex abuse implicates eight former clergy (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

Blackwell trial:

  • Blackwell jury struggles to reach a verdict | Judge in ex-priest's trial dismisses jurors for day; After 5 hours, 'What do we do?'; Panel to resume discussion in child sex-abuse case (The Baltimore Sun)
  • Clergy sex scandal: another descent into the cesspool | The Catholic priest sex scandal keeps rolling along, like some underground river of old sludge, moving after a long freeze and bubbling to the surface in archdioceses from here to California (Dan Rodricks, The Baltimore Sun)

Human rights:

  • Senior Uganda rebel surrenders, raising peace hopes | A top officer in Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebel group surrendered on Wednesday, boosting hopes that other senior commanders could soon abandon their 18-year insurgency, a mediator and army intelligence chief said (Reuters)
  • Slain man's kin demands Catholics defy IRA | The family of a Catholic man slain by IRA members demanded an end Wednesday to the intimidation that dissuades Catholics from cooperating with police — a crucial but often overlooked problem in the Northern Ireland peace process (Associated Press)
  • Black pastors accept apology | The group's president said he wants to respect the decision of a pastor (York Daily Record, Pa.)

Church & state:

  • It's about power | The greatest impediment to faith-based initiatives isn't a lack of funding (Marvin Olasky, Beliefnet)
  • Biblical politics | An upcoming Supreme Court case on the Ten Commandments could give the Dems a chance to reconnect to the faithful (Howard Fineman, Newsweek)
  • Church blessed by liberal handout | Hillsong, an evangelical church with links to the Liberal Party has received almost $800,000 in grants from Federal Government departments in the past five years (AAP, Australia)
  • Bible Belt upside the head | Why the Constitution tries so hard to protect the Buddhist kid (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate)
  • Deity debate hits home | A groundswell of sentiment to restore Jesus' name to official Porterville prayer once again overflowed City Council chambers Tuesday (The Porterville Recorder, Ca.)
  • House panel adopts measures on church-state, presidential primary | A resolution reaffirming support of secular government and bills championing an early presidential primary and immigration law training for state troopers were endorsed Wednesday by a sometimes disagreeable House committee (Arkansas News Bureau)

Education:

  • DA: No charges at Peak to Peak | a mother said her eighth-grade daughter, who no longer attends Peak to Peak charter school, tried to kill herself as a way to escape religious bullying on the part of fundamentalist Christian classmates (Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Co.)
  • Christian frat at UNC to regain official status | A Christian fraternity at UNC is on the verge of regaining official status as a student organization following a hearing Wednesday in federal court (The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.)

Evolution & intelligent design:

  • Evolution revolution | Scientists and educators fear conservative political muscle could force religious ideology into public-school classrooms (Tucson Weekly)
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  • 'Intelligent design' flap inspires school board campaigns | Two Dover Area School District board members who have resigned in protest of the policy say they plan to circulate nominating petitions for the May 17 primary election. A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the district is also expected to make a bid for the board (Associated Press)

Changing the Va. constitution to allow prayer:

  • Va. proposal would make prayer a right | Lawmaker seeks to amend wording dating to Mason (The Washington Post)
  • Changing the Constitution | What Virginia's constitution says, and how it would be amended (The Washington Post)

Church life:

  • Despite deep roots, a quandary of growing pains | Congregation strives to replace century-old building (The Washington Post)
  • Archbishop Paarma: Bishop Kantola was not pressured into resigning | Ilkka Kantola tendered his resignation on Tuesday - the same day the late-edition tabloid Ilta-Sanomat had reported in some depth about his long-term relationship with a married female pastor (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland)
  • 10 things that could land your vicar in trouble | The prospect of heresy trials for Church of England vicars who don't believe key doctrines has been raised this week, following a vote in the church's House of Laity (BBC)

Church of England debates women bishops:

  • Synod paves the way towards first women bishops by 2010 | Archbishop of Canterbury says formal debate will begin at meeting in July (The Times, London)
  • Welcomes and warnings in women bishops debate | Synod heads towards vote 12 years after first female ordinations (The Guardian, London)
  • Synod closer to women bishops after bitter debate | Plans to appoint women bishops have moved a step closer despite warnings from opponents that the issue will cause a seismic split within the Church of England (The Independent, London)
  • Church moves towards women bishops | The Church of England has taken the first tentative steps towards ordaining women bishops but the historic move could still take up to four years. (Reuters)
  • A broad Church has room for women bishops | Already, the air is thick with prophecies of schism, parallel jurisdictions and chaos in the pews. None of these is likely to come true (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

Missions & ministry:

  • Suicide hot line for graduate students ends its religious affiliation | 1-877-GRADHLP quits Campus Crusade for Christ International to get promoted at other schools (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • Good news: Contemporary Christian responses to suffering | Christian responses to poverty in the Third World are robust. The task going forward is to find more ways for the global Body of Christ to partner together in service, building on strengths and learning from mistakes. (Vinay Samuel, The Brandywine Review of Faith & International Affairs)

Pope John Paul II:

  • Doctor: Pope recovery faster than expected | The interview provided the first public remarks by a member of the pope's medical team about the hospitalization (Associated Press)
  • Pope's new book to hit bookstores in Feb. | Includes his account of surviving an assassination attempt in 1981 (Associated Press)
  • Pope to proclaim more saints | Pope John Paul II will chair a meeting of cardinals next week to proclaim five more saints, taking the total during his pontificate to 487, the Vatican said today (AFP)

Catholic churches:

  • Parishioners carry on fight to save church | Appeal to Rome, weigh legal action (The Boston Globe)
  • Buddhists eye church property | Leaders would convert space to larger temple (The Boston Globe)

Vatican to offer exorcism classes:

  • Vatican offers exorcism lessons | Lessons at the prestigious Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum will include the history of Satanism and its context in the Bible. Practical lessons in psychology and the law will also feature (BBC)
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  • Vatican University debuts Satanism classes | The class for clergy and seminarians at Rome's Pontifical Academy "Regina Apostolorum" has arisen from alarm about Satanic practices among young people, especially in Italy (Associated Press)

War & terrorism:

  • Ramstein to break ground on chapel addition for Jewish, Muslim worshippers | The building is believed to be the first in the U.S. military specifically designed to meet the needs of Muslim worshippers, said Chaplain (Capt.) Hamza Al-Mubarak, the Muslim chaplain for the Kaiserslautern military community (Stars and Stripes)
  • The results are in | Christians got eight seats (3%) in Iraqi election (Nibras Kazimi, The New York Sun)

Israel:

  • US Presbyterians consider divesting over West Bank | A threat by the biggest U.S. Presbyterian church group to dump investments in companies profiting from Israel's occupation of the West Bank and related strife has set off a wave of dissent in the church and angered American Jewish leaders (Reuters)
  • Protestant churches consider anti-Israel divestment | Even as Israeli and Palestinian leaders talk of a breakthrough, two more mainline Protestant denominations — the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ — are now weighing divestment proposals aimed at pressuring Israel to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank (Forward)
  • Police to beef up presence in Mughar | In anticipation of renewed violence in the Galilee village of Mughar over the weekend, police are planning to boost their presence there. Three hundred policemen will descend upon the village to keep the peace between Druse and Christian residents, Israel Radio reported on Thursday (The Jerusalem Post)

Christians & the environment:

  • Christians lobby Bush to sign Kyoto Protocol | Christian fundamentalists are making their presence felt in Washington but not on the issues you might expect. Conservative Christians are going green, seeing "stewardship of the earth" as a sacred responsibility (AM, Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
  • The Bible's milk | Sharing it in unpasteurized form in line with family's beliefs (South Bend Tribune, Ind.)

People:

  • Will the real Richard Scrushy please step forward | The churchgoing ways of Richard Scrushy, charged with defrauding shareholders of HealthSouth, have many people asking, is it part of his defense strategy? (The New York Times)
  • Terri Schiavo's parents kick off protest | Family and supporters of a severely brain-damaged woman at the center of a right-to-die case kicked off a protest and lobbying campaign Wednesday to block removal — perhaps by next week — of a feeding tube that helps keep the woman alive (Associated Press)

Charles & Camilla wedding:

  • Charles and Camilla (and Mike and Janet) | One wedding marks a love story; the other is a photo op (Margaret Carlson, Los Angeles Times)
  • Synod is refused a royal debate | The Church of England's two archbishops acted to squash any possibility of a debate on the royal marriage at this week's meeting of the general synod in London (The Guardian, London)

Music:

  • Rock band says its Christian name is deceiving | It's called The Snake The Cross The Crown and they tour with Christian punk bands, but drummer says "I don't know how they could have thought that" the band is Christian (The Quad-Cities Times, Davenport, Ia.)
  • Promoter of Christian festival is accused of writing bad checks | All has apparently not been forgiven for a Hempfield Township Christian-festival promoter who is accused of writing more than $16,000 worth of bad checks (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

More articles of interest:

  • Divine intervention | Susan Jacoby, the author of 'Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,' dissects the fundamentalist antipathy to free thought—and discusses how dangerous the 'God is on our side' philosophy is to government (Buzzflash)
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  • Salem to acquire Christianity.com for $3.4 million | Salem Communications has announced it will acquire Christianity.com, an online provider of Christian content and ministry resources, for approximately $3.4 million (Billboard)
  • Police officers tracked Fr Kaiser, court is told | Catholic priest John Anthony Kaiser was constantly trailed by police officers before he was found dead in August 2000, a court heard yesterday (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

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