Friday, May 7, 2010

Religion Rundown: Week of May 7th



"Evangelist Franklin Graham prayed on a sidewalk outside the Pentagon Thursday after his invitation to a prayer service inside was withdrawn because of comments that insulted people of other religions.

Graham's invitation to attend an event inside the Defense Department for national prayer day was withdrawn two weeks ago.

But he arrived in the Pentagon parking lot just before 8 a.m. EDT — his party of a half dozen people forming a circle on the sidewalk and praying with heads bowed for about five minutes.

Story continues below ↓
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Nine years ago, Graham called Islam "wicked" and "evil."

He told an impromptu press conference Thursday outside the Pentagon that he prayed for the men and women of the armed forces and that he doesn't feel his statements about other religions have been offensive.

'I am who I am'
In an interview with Newsweek, Graham said he still believed what he had said about Islam, but added: "I don't go out and speak about it."

"I am who I am. I don't believe that you can get to heaven through being a Buddhist or Hindu," Graham was quoted as saying by the magazine. "I think Muhammad only leads to the grave. Now, that's what I believe, and I don't apologize for my faith. And if it's divisive, I'm sorry."

"I think yelling 'Allahu Akbar' as you're flying jet airplanes through buildings and killing 3,000 Americans — that was evil and it was wicked," he added. "And I've not heard one Islamic leader around the world stand up and say that was a terrible thing … If Catholics had flown into these buildings in the name of Catholicism, the pope would have been on TV that night denouncing them, saying this was wrong and what they did was sin."

"It would be nice if we could just all sit around and hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' It would be great, but that's not the world we live in," he told Newsweek."

To read the rest of the story, click here.


From The Huffington Post:

"George Alan Rekers, a prominent anti-gay activist who co-founded the conservative Family Research Council, was caught returning from a 10-day trip to Europe with a male escort he found on, which is exactly what it sounds like.

[UPDATE: The escort now says Rekers is indeed gay, and that Rekers paid him to perform daily nude body rubs during their European jaunt. "It's a situation where he's going against homosexuality when he is a homosexual," the young man told the New Times, adding that Rekers -- who repeatedly asked for a move he dubbed "The Long Stroke" -- ought to divorce himself from his many anti-gay associations.

Rekers has a new explanation for the trip. "I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them," he said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The Miami New Times promises more details and a profile of the escort, whom they codenamed "Lucien" but whose identity has been revealed elsewhere.]

Not to worry, Rekers told the Miami New Times, which broke the story: He claims he learned his 20-year-old companion was a prostitute only midway through their trip, they had no intimate contact, and he hired the young man only because recent surgery means "I can't lift luggage."

This seems highly dubious, not least because the New Times reporters spotted the retired professor pushing his baggage cart through Miami International Airport. It would be extremely difficult to stumble upon the homepage, which features young well-muscled men rubbing each other's crotches on grainy video loops, and not figure out what the site means by "rent boy.'"

To read the rest of the story, click here.



From Catholic News:

The current clergy abuse scandal in Europe has not had the same impact on the U.S. Catholic Church as the 2002 reports of clergy abuse that focused on U.S. priests and bishops, according to a new poll. The New York Times/CBS News poll -- released May 4 -- shows that U.S. Catholics view the current wave of scandals as a "far-off storm" that has had "no effect" on Mass attendance, financial contributions or parish participation. Many of the Catholic respondents in the telephone poll conducted April 30-May 2 said they have seen a change in how the church is handling the abuse crisis.

The poll questioned 1,079 randomly selected adults and included 412 Catholics. According to the poll, only one in 10 Catholics say the current abuse scandal causes them to consider leaving the church, unlike the one in five who, in response to a 2002 Gallup poll, considered leaving the church during the height of abuse allegations in the United States. While the abuse scandals in Europe made headlines worldwide in recent months, Vatican officials and U.S. bishops responded by criticizing the media for unfairly characterizing the church. In the poll, slightly more Catholics agreed that the news media had "blown the issue out of proportion" than those who said the issue had been accurately reported. Most said the news media had been harder on the Catholic Church than on other religions.



From Yahoo:

Belgian authorities are analysing a video containing threats to attack the country and other European states if they enforce a ban on full face veils, government officials said on Thursday.

Belgium's lower house of parliament approved a bill last week that would enforce such a ban but it is unlikely to become law soon because the government has collapsed and parliament is due to be dissolved. France is also considering a ban.

A text written in English on a video posted on the Internet says: "If you ban the burqa, hijab or niqab (veils) ... then you will see (a) very dangerous situation in your countries."

It shows veiled women, some armed with guns, armed men and children carrying weapons and ammunition. They did not identify themselves.

Wearing the burqa, hijab or niqab is every Muslim woman's right and governments will pay for their decision to ban the veil, the text of the video says.

A spokesman for the government's crisis centre, which handles security threats, said it had informed Belgium's anti-terrorism body of the potential threat.

"They are carrying out an analysis and could then decide to take measures," the spokesman said.

France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, is planning to debate a draft law from mid-May and ban all face veils in public within months.

Full face veils are extremely rare in Europe, but the number of women wearing them is rising. No exact figures exist but estimates put the totals at about 2,000 in France and a few hundred in Belgium."


From The New York Daily News:

A proposal to build a mosque steps from Ground Zero received the support of a downtown committee despite some loved ones of 9/11 victims finding it offensive.

The 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center was unanimously endorsed by the 12-member Community Board 1's financial district committee.

The $100 million project, called the Cordoba House, is proposed for the old Burlington Coat Factory building at Park Place and Broadway, just two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

"I think it will be a wonderful asset to the community," said committee Chairman Ro Sheffe.

Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, who helped found the Cordoba Initiative following the 9/11 attacks, said the project is intended to foster better relations between the West and Muslims.

He said the glass-and-steel building would include a 500-seat performing arts venue, a swimming pool and a basketball court. "There's nothing like it," said Rauf, adding that facilities will be open to all New Yorkers.

Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and a member of the Cordoba Initiative's board, said donations are being sought to pay for the construction.

Khan said the project has received little opposition.

"Whatever concerns anybody has, we have to make sure to educate them that we are an asset to the community," Khan said.


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