1. Unarmed Turkish Christian hijacks jet, seeks pope
Favorite headline of the day? "Pope safe despite hijack." Of course, Pope Benedict XVI was never in danger yesterday as 28-year-old Hakan Ekinci hijacked a Turkish Airlines flight bound from Tirana, Albania, to Istanbul, and directed it to land in Brindisi, Italy. But Ekinci did say he had a message for the pope.
The message he wanted to give Benedict XVI may have been the same message he sent in an August letter, asking the pope to intervene in his efforts to avoid military service. "I am a Christian, and I never want to serve in a Muslim army," Ekinci had written, according to Turkey's Anatolia news service.
Ekinci was a relatively new convert, Brindisi prosecutor Giuseppe Giannuzzi told reporters. "Having taken up the Christian religion, he feared going back to Turkey," he said. Now Ekinci is seeking asylum in Italy, Giannuzzi said.
Ekinci was reportedly unarmed, but he told the pilot that accomplices on another plane would "blow that plane up" if he didn't get his message to the pope. When the plane landed, Turkish passenger Ergun Erkoseoglu told the Associated Press that Ekinci "walked through the middle of the business class and said, 'I apologize to all of you. Good night."
2. When was God taken out of Amish schools?
There's a mini-furor over Tuesday night's CBS Evening News broadcast remarks by Brian Rohrbough, who lost his son in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. "Since that day, I've tried to answer the question, Why did this happen?" he said. "This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences, and life has no inherent value."
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted the segment today, as well CBS and Katie Couric's efforts to distance themselves from the remarks. CBS's ombudsman defended airing the remarks as "exactly the type of commentary in general that makes me want to see the segment continue and thrive. But there is a very legitimate criticism of this particular episode, an issue of relevance. Because both recent school shootings involved an outside adult and not students, whether or not our educational system is creating a moral vacuum seemed out of place and creates confusion about just what the immediate issue is."
Actually, there's a much bigger issue of relevance than that. Rohrbough's comments specifically referenced the shooting at the Amish school (though he did mention "last week's school murders" as well). It's hard to argue that Charles Roberts's violence was a symptom of secularism when his own suicide note declares anger at God. When he called his wife, she was leading a prayer meeting. Rohrbough is right to point out that the shooting is an example of "moral free-fall," but it's not their problem. It's ours.
3. The Foley cycle
New religion angle on the Foley story: He says he was abused by a clergyman. David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says he should say who it was. "If these events happened when he was a teenager, there is a distinct possibilitymaybe even a certaintythis person is still alive," Clohessy told The Miami Herald.
"To throw that out there like that, I think it's despicable," former priest Bill Brooks, who was Foley's guidance counselor in 1969 and 1970, told The Palm Beach Post. "If there's somebody out there, name him."
4. Where are Fereshteh Dibaj and Reza Montazami?
Iranian police have arrested Fereshteh Dibaj and Reza Montazami, leaders of an independent church in Mashhad. Now they won't say why, and they won't let relatives visit them. Montazami coverted to Christianity more than 10 years ago. His wife is from a Christian family. In fact, notes Radio Free Europe, "her father, Mehdi Dibaj, was a well-known priest of the Jamiat-e Rabbani Church, the Iranian branch of the Assemblies of God. He spent more than nine years in prison and was sentenced to death in 1993 for his faith. He was freed in January 1994 in the face of an international outcry. But a few months later, he was abducted and later found murderedone of at least three priest killings that activists blame on Iranian authorities."
Family members say Christians are now facing the worst persecution in the country in more than a decade.
5. Lawsuit U.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is suing the University of Wisconsin-Superior in what's becoming a familiar storyline. The school de-recognized the organization because of the group's leadership requirements.
Meanwhile, itinerant evangelist "Brother Jim" Gilles is suing Murray State University for banning him from its high-traffic Curris Center.
Quote of the day
"To truly know Jesus requires discovering him personally, Pope Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience. While hearing about Christ through the Bible or through other people can introduce a person to Christian belief, 'it must then be ourselves (who) become personally involved in an intimate and deep relationship with Jesus' in order to know he is truly the savior of the world, the pope said."
From a Catholic News Service article
Christian hijacks Turkish plane | Religious freedom | Shooting at Amish school | Sweden | Pensacola abuse case | Foley page scandal | Politics | Abortion | Marriage and family | Church and state | Education | Higher education | Catholicism | Rick Warren | Hell-ish | Other stories of interest
- Hijacker of Turkish plane wanted to contact Pope, officials say | Officials said the hijacker was apparently a convert to Christianity who wanted to communicate with Pope Benedict XVI (The New York Times)
- Turkish hijacker seeks Italian asylum | A Turkish army deserter who hijacked a Turkish airliner to Italy is seeking asylum because he fears persecution in his Muslim homeland after his conversion to Christianity and wanted Pope Benedict XVI's protection, an Italian prosecutor said Wednesday (Associated Press)
- Hijacker faced arrest in Turkey | A Turkish man who hijacked a flight from Albania and demanded that it be flown to Rome was facing arrest in Turkey for avoiding army service (BBC)
- Kill Pope, says Lashkar fatwa | The Markaz-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, is reported to have issued a fatwa calling upon Muslims to kill Pope Benedict XVI for his September 12 speech, which has been projected as anti-Islam by Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organizations (Rediff, India)
- Iran: Detained Christian couple's family seeks answers | There is growing concern over the fate of an Iranian Christian couple arrested in eastern Iran last week (Radio Free Europe)
- Strong faith and community may help Amish cope with loss | The Amish's strong faith and community ties may prepare them unusually well to cope with it, experts say (The New York Times)
- On CBS, Columbine dad blames violence on secularism | The emotions surrounding the murder of five girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania were still raw Monday when the "CBS Evening News" put on a commentator who blamed such violence on abortion and "expelling God from the school." (The Washington Post)
- Amish community in anguish | Sad recognition that 'the fear' has invaded (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Amish search for healing, forgiveness after "The Amish 9/11" (Religion News Service)
- An Amish tragedy | The peacefulness and good faith of the Amish look like passivity, even foolishness, in the presence of the darkest of human motives - and, to voice an unpopular sentiment in this conservative county, the absurdly easy availability of guns (Kerry Sherin Wright, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Can the Amish ride in helicopters? | Medical evacuation among the Pennsylvania Dutch (Slate)
- Necrophile felt lust as church burned | The trial began today of a church warden in central Sweden who had sex with a woman's corpse and burned down a church. (The Local, Sweden)
- Knutby sect member in child assault probe | A member of the Knutby religious sect has been arrested on allegations that he assaulted children (The Local, Sweden)
- Monday: Experts dismiss Knutby pastor's confession | Police in Uppsala are to question the Knutby pastor Helge Fossmo after he admitted on Thursday that he was involved in the murder of his wife and the attempted murder of a neighbour in 2004. But the confession has been lambasted by a professor of psychology. (The Local, Sweden)
- Sunday: Knutby pastor admits murder | In an interview with TV4's news programme Nyheterna, Knutby pastor Helge Fossmo has admitted involvement in the murder of his wife in their home in 2004. Fossmo also said that several others were involved in the crime. (The Local, Sweden)
- Earlier: Say a little prayer for Sweden | Christianity in Sweden has a long history, but you won't find many Swedes in the pews on a Sunday. But that doesn't mean Swedish religious groups don't have the capacity to cause a stir (The Local, Sweden, Aug. 11)
- Judge must decide case with no easy answers | Here's the black and white: Janelle Bird was a 24-year-old teacher having sex with a 15-year-old student in her apartment. And the gray: She was a virgin from a sheltered, evangelical Christian background who'd never had a boyfriend. He was far more savvy, even helping her budget her finances, and he admitted he pursued her (Pensacola News Journal, Fla.)
- Psychologist: Bird likely 'traumatized' for rest of her life | Janelle Bird doesn't fit the psychological profile of a teacher who seduces her underage student (Pensacola News Journal, Fla.)
- Letters to Judge Geeker | Circuit Judge Nick Geeker has received a number of letters from people urging leniency for Janelle Bird. Some excerpts follow (Pensacola News Journal, Fla.)
- Mark Foley claims being molested as teen | He declined to identify the clergyman or the church, but Foley is Roman Catholic (Associated Press)
- Debate shifts after Foley says he's gay | Some conservatives say House Republican leaders knew previously of Foley's sexual orientation and were too lax in investigating his actions for fear of seeming bigoted. Some gays blame Foley's personal problems on being so long in the closet while representing a party hostile to many gay-rights causes (Associated Press)
- Foley case shakes GOP | Arlington Group backed away Tuesday from issuing a tough statement urging changes in the leadership. (Los Angeles Times)
- Can this marriage be saved? | Foley fallout, says Dotty Lynch, strains GOP-conservative alliance (CBS News)
- Preachers watch for Foley fallout | Preachers interviewed by The News-Journal differed on how the Foley controversy might affect the November elections (Daytona Beach News-Journal)
- Outrage over Foley case justified | Society does "understand there are limits to 'tolerance' of anything-goes sexuality" (Press release, Focus on the Family Action; apparently the version we quoted in yesterday's Weblog was a draft)
- Voters told to let morals guide them | At a rally in St. Paul, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson urged his supporters to vote with their "family values" in mind (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Also: Dobson rally draws supporters, protesters | Cites marriage as 'designed by God' (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- Christian leader: Romney's Mormon faith could hinder presidential bid | "I don't believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess," Mr. Dobson said on a syndicated radio program hosted by a conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham (The New York Sun)
- Mobilization of the faithful is a two-party affair | It's not just conservative churches that are trying to get out the vote this fall (Minnesota Public Radio)
- Conservatives stick with Schwarzenegger | Republican voters have nowhere else to go (Associated Press)
- Keeping religion out of public policy | In his new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris advocates keeping religion out of public policy. He calls religion the biggest obstacle to a rational public discourse (Talk of the Nation, NPR)
- Rethinking religion and politics | In part two of a discussion on religion and politics, members of the clergy debate whether or not the separation of church and state means a separation of religion and politics (Talk of the Nation, NPR)
- The gospel of green | Evangelical Christians are increasingly part of the movement to protect God's green Earth (Bill McKibben, OnEarth Magazine, via Alternet)
- Women sign 'We Had Abortions' petition | Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled "We Had Abortions," accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration (Associated Press)
- Attempt to blunt court on abortion | Plan would replace law on notification (Chicago Tribune)
- How marriage causes violence, by the Church | Church of England leaders were under fire yesterday after claiming marriage can be a trigger for domestic violence (Evening Standard, London)
- Also: The Church shouldn't beat itself up | There is no getting round the fact that a literal interpretation of the Bibleone that takes no heed of human developments since the days of the Scriptures' authorshipwill only distort what we hope might be true Christian values, and in that way drive yet more millions away from the Church (Andrew O'Hagan, The Telegraph, London)
- More Canadians taking leap of faith | Helen and Doug Watling perfectly fit a new Statistics Canada study that found people of different religious and cultural backgrounds can love and live together with the rise of increasing diversity (Toronto Sun)
- In defense of big families | Leslie Leyland Fields is a business owner and writer, but what sets her apart from many of her peers is that she is a self-described "six-time breeder" (The Washington Times)
- Earlier: The Case for Kids | A defense of the large family by a 'six-time breeder.' by Leslie Leyland Fields (Christianity Today, Aug. 4)
- Charity plan can't exclude faith groups | They can choose own workers, judge tells state (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Orange OKs 199-foot cross despite sign-size limits | A Baptist church argued that the cross is a religious symbol, not a sign. It worked (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Bible class draws student support | Wilson school board plans November vote (The Tennessean)
- 'Design' attack on school science | Parents are being encouraged to challenge their children's science teachers over what they are explaining as the origins of life. (BBC)
- Atheists, stop groveling | If non-believers set up schools of their own, they'd soon knock faith primaries off their perch (Zoe Williams, The Guardian, London)
- Board hears Potter appeal | A Loganville mother argued that the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft and should be banned from all Gwinnett County public schools. But an attorney for the county's school system said the popular stories encourage children to read and should be available to all students (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sues UW | The university notified the campus chapter that it could not be recognized for the current school year because it required its leaders to take a religious vow (The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)
- Western Kentucky evangelist files free speech lawsuit against MSU | A western Kentucky evangelist, who preaches at campuses nationwide, is suing Murray State University for denying him speaking privileges at the school's student center (Associated Press)
- Court says St. Louis U. can get urban renewal funds despite its religious origins | In 2-1 decision, a Missouri appellate court majority held that while St. Louis University has a Jesuit tradition, it is controlled and operated by an independent, lay board of trustees (Religion Clause)
- Activist ousted from Vanderbilt is back, as a teacher | The Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., 78, returned to teach at Vanderbilt this fall, 46 years after the university expelled him for his role in lunch-counter sit-ins (The New York Times)
- College Media Advisers censures Oklahoma Baptist | School failed to renew the contract of a newspaper adviser who refused to censor student journalists (press release, CMA)
- Pope tries to win hearts and minds by saving souls of unbaptised babies | The Pope will cast aside centuries of Catholic belief later this week by abolishing formally the concept of limbo, in a gesture calculated to help to win the souls of millions of babies in the developing world for Christ (The Times, London)
- Yesterday:: Pope to end doctrine of Limbo (The Times, London)
- An exemplar of devotion | Archdiocese awaits sacred relic (The Boston Globe)
- Pope says Christians must discover Jesus personally (Catholic News Service)
- Transforming a megachurch | A generation looking for meaning enlists in Rick Warren's missionary program (The Orange County Register)
- Q&A: 'It's all about God ' | Not content with what he's done already, Rick Warren now wants churches to tackle the world's most prevalent problems, including pandemic illness, illiteracy and oppression (The Dallas Morning News)
- Parks office deep-sixes `666' from its address | The number 666 might strike fear in some people, but to the Wheaton Park District, it was always just an easy-to-remember street address--666 S. Main St.--for the administration building (Chicago Tribune)
- Hell House at St. Ann's | Dear Jerry Falwell, meet N.Y.'s sinners! (The New York Observer)
- 'Hell House' takes Manhattan | Latimes.com focus grouper Pastor Keenan sees his evangelical brainchild go off-Broadway (Los Angeles Times)
- Southern Christianity, around the world | Religion professor Philip Jenkins talks about his latest book, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (Fresh Air, NPR)
- Nothing is sacred, as looters rob Mexican churches of colonial treasures | The taste for colonial religious art grows, and a small village in the colonial heartland of Mexico suffers (The New York Times)
- "Every person in it he utterly destroyed" | Will the Book of Joshua make you stop believing in God? (David Plotz, Blogging the Bible, Slate)
- Fiona Bruce, the BBC and the PC fanatics who hate her cross | Yesterday BBC news presenter Fiona Bruce's necklace provoked a row (Daily Express, U.K.)
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