Deadly exorcisms and sacrifices: Real or rumor?
A confidential report from London's Metropolitan Police leaked to BBC Radio 4's Today program (audio) claims children are being trafficked into Britain as religious sacrifices.

"[P]eople who are desperate will seek out witchcraft experts to cast spells for them," says the report, a product of a ten-month investigation. "For a spell to be powerful it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by circumcision. … Boy children are being trafficked into the UK for this purpose. … Specific details were not forthcoming as the belief was that they would be 'dead meat' if we tell you any more."

The report also alleges that children are being trafficked into the country for sexual purposes, particularly catering to African men who believe that sex with a child will cure them of HIV or AIDS.

The report was particularly critical of immigrants' attitudes toward demonic possession—no surprise since British headlines have recently focused on the torture of an 8-year-old girl her family had called a witch. In 2000, another 8-year-old, Victoria Climbie, died after violent and cruel exorcism rituals.

Preachers have created a "lucrative business" in exorcism, the report says. "A number of pastors maintain that God speaks to them and lets them know when someone is possessed … They would not accept that they played a major role in inciting such violence."

Perdeep Gill, one of the authors of the report, told The Times of London that pastors declare problems "from bedwetting to rebellion" as evidence of possession. "Most said the best solution was prayer and fasting. But they know the implications for the child. The way of dealing with it in Africa is through beating — to death in some cases. We told [the pastors] they couldn't distance themselves from it. More people believed in witchcraft than didn't and there are tons of small churches, with pastors moving from church to church."

But there's a major difference between believing in demonic possession and using torture and beatings to exorcize children. It's unclear from the reporting if Gill and others see that difference.

Katei Kirby, manager of the African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, told The Guardian that the report is balanced and "does raise issues we need to address. But we do think it is unfortunate that a perception is being created that there is child sacrifice in every African community and that it is accepted."

John Azah, vice-chairman of the Metropolitan police's independent advisory group, wonders just how widespread these sacrifice incidents are. He told The Guardian, "I think it is very important that things are done to engage with the community, but we need to be careful about what is evidence and what is someone saying, 'This is what I have heard,'" What we have here seems to fall into that category. There is nothing to confirm that this has happened."

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Goldsmiths College sociologist William Les Henry smells racism. "They always seem to base their models on the fact that Africans are less civilized, less rational, so their whole systems of rationality are irrational," he complained to the BBC.

Indeed, caution is necessary here; if the report is indeed overblown or misconstrued, it could have far more devastating effects than America's relatively harmless "satanic panic" of the 1980s. But neither can we assume that it's not overblown. The deadly campus cults phenomenon in Nigeria and violent and deadly reports of exorcism elsewhere demonstrate that this isn't just "news of the weird."

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  • Whose jubilee? | Powerful names in Christendom join music moguls to mount a seductive campaign to cancel poor-nation debt—a plan more likely to benefit oppressors of the poor than the truly impoverished (Mindy Belz, World)


  • Hostettler, again | Congressman attempts to block court action, this time on Ten Commandments. Congress should not go there (Editorial, Courier & Press, Evansville, Ind.)
  • Bishops renew their opposition to death penalty | America's Catholic bishops yesterday agreed to refocus and step up their opposition to the death penalty, while some prelates questioned omissions in a new document on priestly chastity that the bishops will vote on today (The Washington Times)
  • Bush talks about faith at Hispanic prayer breakfast | In the past six weeks, Bush has been the main attraction at three prayer events (Associated Press)
  • Onward, moderate Christian soldiers | It is important for those of us who are considered moderates to make the case that we have strongly held Christian convictions (John C. Danforth, The New York Times)
  • How religion and politics can blend | Reasoned argument and compassionate listening offer ample opportunity for religious beliefs to play a public role without ruining public discourse and the political equilibrium (Editorial, The Christian Science Monitor)
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  • 3 Montgomery schools to move graduation from church | Parents object to using religious sites as county wrestles with limited number of large venues (The Washington Post)
  • A worldview in a week | Call it Christianity boot camp. Every year, thousands of evangelical Christian college students and teens from across the U.S. and Canada forgo traditional summer camps to immerse themselves in sessions that teach apologetics and Christian thought (The Washington Times)
  • Waco warning | Is Baylor on a path to becoming a "formerly Christian school"? (World)

Air Force Academy:

  • 'Religious bullying' at US academy | The sprawling campus of America's elite Air Force Academy is silent for the summer holiday, but the din surrounding its role as an alleged hot-bed of religious intolerance is only getting louder (BBC)
  • On wings and prayers | How much religious intolerance is there at the U.S. Air Force Academy? (Vincent Carroll, The Wall Street Journal)

Frist defends remarks on Schiavo case:

  • Frist plagued again by comments on Schiavo | The Senate majority leader denies that he attempted to diagnose the Florida woman after an autopsy's findings contradict his remarks (Los Angeles Times)
  • Frist defends remarks on Schiavo case | He says he never made a diagnosis (The Washington Post)

Terri Schiavo:

  • The Schiavo post-mortem | The autopsy changes nothing (Editorial, National Review)
  • Blind man's love | The lesson of Terri Schiavo's autopsy (William Saletan, Slate)
  • Don't hold your breath for this sorry excuse | Where are the apologies now that the autopsy showed no abuse of Terri Schiavo? (Daniel Ruth, The Tampa Tribune)

Life ethics:

  • Conservative groups blocked Nevada birth control amendment | A provision that would have forced pharmacists to fill birth control prescriptions - regardless of moral objections—was cut out of a bill in the final days of the Nevada Legislature (Associated Press)
  • Many still seek one final say on ending life | Interest in living wills has surged in the aftermath of the fierce nationwide battle over the fate of Terri Schiavo (The New York Times)
  • Irish bishops reject pregnancy pamphlet | Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland ordered a church-run pregnancy counseling service Thursday to stop distributing a government-funded pamphlet that presents abortion as an option (Associated Press)
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  • Inside stricken mother, a race between life and death | Cancer that felled woman now threatens fetus (The Washington Post)
  • The overcell | Federalism and human life (Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online)
  • 'The ban on abortion is not absolute' | Ostensibly, it is a well-known fact that halakha (Jewish religious law) objects to abortions, even if the infant that will be born will have a severe illness or be mentally retarded. But, is that really halakha? An article that appears in the latest volume of the halakhic journal, Tehumin, argues to the contrary (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)


  • Aid groups to meet war crimes prosecutor on Darfur | Leading humanitarian aid groups are to meet on Friday with the international prosecutor investigating war crimes in Darfur, at a time of growing concern about security for international aid workers as well as local villagers in the troubled Sudanese region (Reuters)
  • Sudanese visitor split U.S. officials | A decision by the CIA to fly Sudan's intelligence chief to Washington for secret meetings aimed at cementing cooperation against terrorism triggered such intense opposition within the Bush administration that some officials suggested arresting him here, sources said (Los Angeles Times)

Human rights & religious freedom:

  • Preacher cleared over harassment | A street preacher accused of harassing a passer-by by shouting "You are going to burn in hell" has been cleared (BBC)
  • Burned Qurans left at Va. Muslim center | The torched copies of the Muslim holy book were inside a plastic shopping bag, members of the Islamic Center of Blacksburg said. They said the bag had been placed at the center's front door sometime before Saturday prayers (Associated Press)
  • The toilet and the Koran | We might want to consider the possibility that the Koran desecration charge is being played up at this time in order to create a smokescreen and give bin Laden enough cover to move to a place of greater safety (Bob Merz, The Washington Times)


  • U.S. bishops pledge pursuit of sexual abusers | The promise U.S. Catholic bishops made more than two years ago to root out sexual abuse by priests has been kept and will not be weakened, church leaders said on Thursday (Reuters)
  • Judge: Pending abuse suits could be delayed two years | At a court hearing on Thursday to determine the status of unresolved civil suits against the diocese, Hampden Superior Judge John A. Agostini issued a stay on continuing litigation on the suits while the diocese pursues legal action to determine the obligation of insurance carriers in paying for settlements (Associated Press)
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Catholic bishops expected to maintain abuse policy:

  • Bishops expected to maintain abuse policy | Roman Catholic bishops are expected to extend their policy of permanently barring sex offenders from church work, but victims' groups say prelates cannot be trusted to enforce their own plan (Associated Press)
  • U.S. bishops likely to retain hard line on priest sex abuse | By all accounts, there is little desire by bishops to do more than tweak the abuse policy (The Denver Post)
  • Bishops likely to renew abuse policy | Some object to proposed changes to the 'zero tolerance' standard set after allegations of sex crimes by priests rocked the Catholic Church (Los Angeles Times)
  • Bishops to okay revised policy on ousting abusive clergy | Protesters want 7 to resign (Chicago Sun-Times)


  • American archbishop appointed to Vatican | The archbishop poised to take over the highest Vatican post ever held by an American defended Thursday the traditional secrecy surrounding church business in Rome (Associated Press)
  • Archdiocese halts plans to close five parishes | O'Malley cites lay panel advice (The Boston Globe)
  • For parishioners, jubilation and relief | But reprieves not all permanent (The Boston Globe)
  • To be or not to be a priest | As bishops gather here to weigh church's challenges, a new generation of seminarians wrestles with the hardest choice of all (Chicago Tribune)

Catholic & Orthodox ecumenism:

  • Ecumenical patriarch welcomes pope's call | The spiritual leader of the world's 200 million Orthodox Christians welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's pledge to end a schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, calling it a mutual "obligation to God." (Associated Press)
  • Kiev patriarch urges church cooperation | Defying the Russian Orthodox Church's stance, one of Ukraine's top religious leaders said Wednesday he sees no obstacles to greater cooperation between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican (Associated Press)

Orthodox leader demoted to monk:

  • Orthodox leader demoted to monk | The Orthodox Church has demoted Irineos, its former Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the rank of simple monk (BBC)
  • Jerusalem patriarch demoted to monk | Irineos has been marginalized within his church for the past three months over reports the church leased prime property in east Jerusalem to Jewish groups trying to expand their presence in the disputed city (Associated Press)
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Southern Baptists:

  • Southern Baptists' growth stalling | Convention a political power, but some fear evangelism neglected (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Southern Baptists in 'doldrums,' leader says ahead of meeting | Denomination challenged to meet evangelistic mandate, Welch warns (MSNBC)

Christian Reformed Church:

  • CRC to investigate Toronto congregation | The CRC Synod Tuesday voted to send a special committee to First CRC of Toronto to find out whether the church's teachings on same-sex couples violate church policy (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)
  • All-male CRC Synod votes to stay that way | The all-male CRC Synod on Wednesday backed away from a proposal to allow female delegates at its annual policy-making meeting (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)
  • Holland native elected CRC director | Strengthening church members' loyalty to their denomination is part of Calvin Bremer's mission as the new executive director of the CRC (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)
  • Cancer-stricken general secretary thanks supporters | David Engelhard, the longtime general secretary of the CRC, who was diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumor, briefly addressed the delegates Wednesday (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

Church life:

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  • Also: The man to help the Church of England live again | John Sentamu is a visionary (Ruth Gledhill, The Times, London)
  • Presbyterians live in past for a day | 150-year-old church celebrates spirit of pioneering founders (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Methodists and their meetings | It's June, the time each year when Methodists young and old, black and white, liberal and conservative, clergy and lay, get together to form the mother of all church committees (David Waters, Scripps Howard News Service)
  • The saints come marching | The first sign of a religious convention in town is usually the posters, the talk, then the legions of cars parked outside the designated venue (Mmegi, Botswana)

Religion & spirituality:

  • Three in four Americans believe in paranormal | Little change from similar results in 2001 (Gallup)
  • Lawrenceville man finds plaster Jesus | Where others might see a serious need for a plumber, Jeffrey Rigo sees the divine (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
  • The auction: Jesus Christ image icon materializes in plaster wall | Starting bid: $1,999.99 (eBay)
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Humanist wedding:

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  • Humanist wedding is legal first | Britain's first legally recognised humanist wedding is to take place in Edinburgh at the weekend (BBC)

Same-sex marriage:

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  • Bishops to lead gay law protest | Spain's senior bishops are to lead a mass demonstration of Catholics in Madrid tomorrow against a law introducing gay marriage and adoption by gay couples (The Guardian, London)
  • A new challenge to same-sex marriages | More than a year after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney said he would support a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn that right (The New York Times)

Men lose bid for marriage license:

  • Judge rules against gay O.C. couple | Mission Viejo men did not have the right to marry, U.S. jurist says. An appeal is planned (Los Angeles Times)
  • Judge calls Defense of Marriage Act legally sound | Orange County couple's case is headed for appeal; California law not addressed (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Men lose bid for marriage license | The Mission Viejo couple are weighing their options (The Orange County Register, Ca.)
  • US court backs restriction on same-sex marriage | Delivering a setback to supporters of same-sex marriages, a federal judge in California on Thursday upheld the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which recognizes only unions between a man and a woman (Reuters)


  • Lock up the 'ex-gays' | It's the "ex-gays" that belong in a reparative camp (Kevin Naff, Washington Blade)
  • Minister faces church trial for performing gay wedding | If the Reformed Church in America finds that Norman J. Kansfield has violated church law, he could face a variety of punishments, including being defrocked as a theology professor and minister, and excommunicated (The New York Times)
  • Gay father wins hearing on custody conditions | A gay Montgomery County resident is entitled to a legal hearing to challenge a court order that forced his partner to move out of their shared house as a condition for retaining custody of his son, a Maryland appellate court has ruled (The Washington Post)

Film & television:

  • Cosmic struggles of cultural proportions | With an emphasis on an eternal struggle between equally matched forces of darkness and light, "Star Wars" and "Batman Begins" suggest a kind of pop-culture Manichaeism (The New York Times)
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  • CBS gives go-ahead for Pope John Paul miniseries | The program is being made by the producers behind the network's hit miniseries "Jesus," which aired several years ago and starred Jeremy Sisto in the title role and Debra Messing from the TV sitcom "Will & Grace" as Mary Magdalene (Reuters)


  • Divine inspiration on display at Wheaton College | Exhibit shows work by self-taught artists (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
  • Brazilian doctors uncover 'Michelangelo code' | Two Brazilian doctors and amateur art lovers believe they have uncovered a secret lesson on human anatomy hidden by Renaissance artist Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. (Reuters)


  • 1,000 mourners turn out for 'Living Bible' publisher | Ken Taylor made a video recording nearly two years ago to be shown at the service (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
  • Religious tracts inserted in books at WDM library | Religious and secular pamphets are found in the facility's religions section (Des Moines Register, Ia.)

More articles of interest:

  • Banking regulators banish church elder over ponzi scheme allegations | A church elder from South Florida who sought to form a "Christian" bank in Broward County to help process checks for a nationwide Ponzi scheme has been banned from banking by the Federal Reserve System. (Daily Business Review)
  • The origin of the species: opening statements in the debate | A group of Australia's most prominent scientific thinkers on the issue of origins have generously given up their time to debate their respective stances in Webdiary over the next week (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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